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LANGUAGE : Its Nature, Development 
and Origin. Demy 8vo. Fourth Impression. 

" Chief among Professor Jespersen 's many 
qualities we would place not his erudition, vast 
as it is, but the lively imagination with which he 
plays upon the most unpromising of subjects 
and extracts from it its maximum of human 
interest. " Spectator. 

" Dr. Jespersen is one of the most learned 
linguists whom the nineteenth century pro- 
duced." Saturday Review. 

LANGUAGE. Crown 8vo. Fifth 

"This excellent book gives a lucid exposition 
of the reform method. Should be most carefully 
studied by every modern language teacher." 
School World. 


" A brilliant and suggestive essay on the 
contemporary evolution of English grammar." 

vols. Crown 8vo. 


PART II. : SYNTAX. First volume. Third 

PABT III. : SYNTAX. Second volume. 







First published in January 1922 
Reprinted . . February 1923 
Reprinted . . August 1925 
Reprinted . . February 1928 

(AH rights reserved) 


Printed in Great Britain by 
Umvin Brothers, Ltd., Woking 



Clsede, nftr av andres mund 
jeg hjafrte de tanker store, 

Glwde over hvert et fund 

jeg aelv yed min forsken gjordc. 


THE distinctive feature of the science of language as conceived 
nowadays is its historical character : a language or a word is no 
longer taken as something given once for all, but as a result of 
previous development and at the same time as the starting-point 
for subsequent development. This manner of viewing languages 
constitutes a decisive improvement on the way in which languages 
were dealt with in previous centuries, and it suffices to mention 
such words as ' evolution ' and ' Darwinism ' to show that linguistic 
research has in this respect been in full accordance with tendencies 
observed in many other branches of scientific work during the last 
hundred years. Still, it cannot be said that students of language 
have always and to the fullest extent made it clear to themselves 
what is the real essence of a language. Too often expressions are 
used which are nothing but metaphors in many cases perfectly 
harmless metaphors, but in other cases metaphors that obscure 
the real facts of the matter. Language is frequently spoken of 
as a ' living organism ' ; we hear of the ' life ' of languages, of 
the ' birth ' of new languages and of the ' death ' of old languages, 
and the implication, though not always realized, is that a language 
is a living thing, something analogous to an animal or a plant. 
Yet a language evidently has no separate existence in the same 
way as a dog or a beech has, but is nothing but a function of 
certain living human beings. Language is activity, purposeful 
activity, and we should never lose sight of the speaking individuals 
and of their purpose in acting in this particular way. When 
people speak of the life of words as in celebrated books with such 
titles as La vie des mots, or Biographies of Words they do 
not always keep in view that a word has no ' life ' of its own : 
it exists only in so far as it is pronounced or heard or remembered 
by somebody, and this kind of existence cannot properly be com- 
pared with ' life ' in the originaJ and proper sense of that word. 
The only unimpeachable definition of a word is that it is a human 
habit, an habitual act on the part of one human individual which 
has, or may have, the effect of evoking some idea in the mind 



of another individual. A word thus may be rightly compared 
with such an habitual act as taking off one's hat or raising one's 
fingers to one's cap : in both cases we have a certain set of mus- 
cular activities which, when seen or heard by somebody else, 
shows him what is passing in the mind of the original agent or 
what he desires to bring to the consciousness of the other man 
(or men). The act is individual, but the interpretation presupposes 
that the individual forms part of a community with analogous 
habits, and a language thus is seen to be one particular set of 
human customs of a well-defined social character. 

It is indeed possible to speak of * life ' in connexion with 
language even from this point of view, but it will be in a different 
sense from that in which the word was taken by the older school 
of linguistic science. I shall try to give a biological or biographical 
science of language, but it will be through sketching the linguistic 
biology or biography of the speaking individual. I shall give, 
therefore, a large part to the way in which a child learns his mother- 
tongue (Book II) : my conclusions there are chiefly based on the 
rich material I have collected during many years from direct 
observation of many Danish children, and particularly of my 
own boy, Frans (see my book Nutidssprog hos born og voxne, Copen- 
hagen, 1916). Unfortunately, I have not been able to make first- 
hand observations with regard to the speech of English children ; 
the English examples I quote are taken second-hand either from 
notes, for which I am obliged to English and American friends, 
or from books, chiefly by psychologists. I should be particularly 
happy if my remarks could induce some English or American 
linguist to take up a systematic study of the speech of children, 
or of one child. This study seems to me very fascinating indeed, 
and a linguist is sure to notice many things that would be passed 
by as uninteresting even by the closest observer among psycholo- 
gists, but which may have some bearing on the life and development 
of language. 

Another part of linguistic biology deals with the influence 
of the foreigner, and still another with the changes which the 
individual is apt independently to introduce into his speech even 
after he has fully acquired his mother-tongue. This naturally 
leads up to the question whether all these changes introduced by 
various individuals do, or do not, follow the same line of direction, 
and whether mankind has on the whole moved forward or not in 
linguistic matters. The conviction reached through a study of 
historically accessible periods of well-known languages is finally 
shown to throw some light on the disputed problem of the ultimate 
origin of human language. 

Parts of my theory of sound-change, and especially my objections 


to the dogma of blind sound-laws, date back to my very first 
linguistic paper (1886) ; most of the chapters on Decay or Progress 
and parts of some of the following chapters, as well as the theory 
of the origin of sj>eech, may be considered a new and revised 
edition of the general chapters of my Progress in Language (1894). 
Many of the ideas contained in this book thus are not new with 
me ; but even if a reader of my previous works may recognize 
things which he has seen before, I hope he will admit that they 
have been here worked up with much new material into something 
like a system, which forms a fairly comprehensive theory of 
linguistic development. 

Still, I have not been able to compress into this volume the 
whole of my philosophy of speech. Considerations of space have 
obliged me to exclude the chapters I had first intended to write 
on the practical consequences of the ' energetic ' view of language 
which I have throughout maintained ; the estimation of linguistic 
phenomena implied in that view has bearings on such questions 
as these : What is to be considered ' correct ' or ' standard ' in 
matters of pronunciation, spelling, grammar and idiom ? Can (or 
should) individuals exert themselves to improve their mother-tongue 
by enriching it with new terms and by making it purer, more precise, 
more fit to express subtle shades of thought, more easy to handle 
in speech or in writing, etc. ? (A few hints on such questions may 
be found in my paper " Energetik der Sprache " in Scientia, 1914.) 
Is it possible to construct an artificial language on scientific prin- 
ciples for international use ? (On this question I may here briefly 
state my conviction that it is extremely important for the whole 
of mankind to have such a language, and that Ido is scientifically 
and practically very much superior to all previous attempts, 
Volapuk, Esperanto, Idiom Neutral, Latin sine flexione, etc. But 
I have written more at length on that question elsewhere.) With 
regard to the system of grammar, the relation of grammar to 
logic, and grammatical categories and their definition, I must refer 
the reader to Sprogete Logik (Copenhagen, 1913), and to the first 
chapter of the second volume of my Modern English Grammar 
(Heidelberg, 1914), but I shall hope to deal with these questions 
more in detail in a future work, to be called, probably, The Logic 
of Grammar, of which some chapters have been ready in my 
drawers for some years and others are in active preparation. 

I have prefixed to the theoretical chapters of this work a short 
survey of the history of the science of language in order to show 
how my problems have been previously treated. In this part 
(Book I) I have, as a matter of course, used the excellent works 
on the subject by Benfey, Raumer, Delbruck (Einleitung in das 
Sprachstudium, 1st ed., 1880 ; I did not see the 5th ed., 1908, till 


my own chapters on the history of linguistics were finished), 
Thomson, Oertel and Pedersen. But I have in nearly every case 
gone to the sources themselves, and have, I think, found interesting 
things in some of the early books on linguistics that have been 
generally overlooked ; I have even pointed out some writers who 
had passed into undeserved oblivion. My intention has been on 
the whole to throw into relief the great lines of development 
rather than to give many details ; in judging the first part of my 
book it should also be borne in mind that its object primarily is 
to serve as an introduction to the problems dealt with in the rest 
of the book. Throughout I have tried to look at things with my 
own eyes, and accordingly my views on a great many points are 
different from those generally accepted ; it is my hope that an 
impartial observer will find that I have here and there succeeded 
in distributing light and shade more justly than my predecessors. 

Wherever it has been necessary I have transcribed words 
phonetically according to the system of the Association Phonetique 
Internationale, though without going into too minute distinction 
of sounds, the object being, not to teach the exact pronunciation 
of various languages, but rather to bring out clearly the insuffi- 
ciency of the ordinary spelling'. The latter is given throughout in 
italics, while phonetic symbols have been inserted in brackets [ ]. 
I must ask the reader to forgive inconsistency in such matters 
as Greek accents, Old English marks of vowel-length, etc., which 
I have often omitted as of no importance for the purpose of this 

I must express here my gratitude to the directors of the 
Carlsbergfond for kind support of my work. I want to thank 
also Professor G. C. Moore Smith, of the University of Sheffield : 
not only has he sent me the manuscript of a translation of 
most of my Nutidssprog, which he had undertaken of his own 
accord and which served as the basis of Book II, but he has 
kindly gone through the whole of this volume, improving and 
correcting my English style in many passages. His friendship and 
the untiring interest he has always taken in my work have been 
extremely valuable to me for a great many years. 



Jun 1921. 








I. BEFORE 1800 ...... 19 






V. SOUNDS . . . . . .103 

VI. WORDS ....... 113 

VII. GRAMMAR ...... 128 



DEVELOPMENT ...... 161 

X. THE INFLUENCE or THE CHILD (continued) . . 172 





XL THE FOREIGNER ...... 191 


XIII. THE WOMAN . . . . . .237 

XV. CAUSES OF CHANGE (continued) . . . 276 



XVI. ETYMOLOGY ...... 305 

XVII. PROGRESS OR DECAY? . . . . .319 

XVIII. PROGRESS ....... 337 


XX. SOUND SYMBOLISM |-f lf\ . . . . 396 


INDEX ... 443 


Bally LV = Ch. Bally, Le Langage et la Vie, Geneve 1913. 

Benfey Gesch = Th. Benfey, Geschichte dor Sprachurissenschaft, Munchen 

Bleek CG = W. H. I. Bleek, Comparative Grammar of South African Language* 

London 1862-69. 
Bloomfield SL = L. Bloomfield, An Introduction to the Study of Language, 

New York 1914. 

Bopp C = F. Bopp, Conjugationssyetcm der Sanskritsprache, Frankfurt 1816. 
AC = Analytical Comparison (see ch. ii, 6). 
VG = Vergleichende Grammatik, 2te Ausg., Berlin 1857. 
Breal M = M. Breal, Melanges de Mythologie et de Lingui&tique, Paris 1882. 
Brugmann VG = K. Brugmann, Grundriss der Vergleichenden Grammatik, 

Strassburg 1886 ff., 2te Ausg., 1897 5. 
KG = Kurze Vergleichende Grammatik, Strassburg 1904. 
ChE = O. Jespersen, Chapters on English, London 1918. 
Churchill B = W. Churchill, Beach-la-Mar, Washington 1911. 
Curtius C = G. Curtius, Zur Chronologie der indogerm. Sprachforschung, 

Leipzig 1873. 

K = Zur Kritik der neuesten Sprachforschung, Leipzig 1885. 
Dauzat V = A. Dauzat, La Vie du Langage, Paris 1910. 

Ph = La Philosophie du Langage, Paris 1912. 
Delbruck E = B. Delbruck, Einleitung in das Sprachstudium, Leipzig 1880 ; 

5te Aufl. 1908. 

Grfr = Grundfragen der Sprachforschung, Strassburg 1901. 
E. = English. 

EDD = J. Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary, Oxford 1898 S. 
ESt = Engliache Studien. 
Feist KI = S. Feist, Kultur, Ausbreitung und Herkunft der Indogermonen, 

Berlin 1913. 

Fonetik = O. Jespersen, Fonetik, Copenhagen 1897. 
Fr. = French. 
Gabelentz Spr = G. v. d. Gabelentz, Die Sprochwissenschaft, Leipzig 1891. 

Gr = Chinesische Grammatik, Leipzig 1881. 
Ginneken LP = J. v. Ginneken, Principea de Linguistique Psychologique, 

Amsterdam, Paris 1907. 

Glenconner = P. Glenconner, The Sayings of the Children, Oxford 1918. 
Gr. = Greek. 
Greenough and Kittredge W = J. B. Greenough and G. L. Kittredge, Words 

and their Ways in English Speech, London 1902. 

Grimm Gr. = J. Grimm, Deutsche Grammatik, 2te Ausg., Gottingen 1822. 
GDS = Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, 4te Aufl., Leipzig 1880. 



GRM = Germaniach-Romanische Monatsschrift. 

GS O. Jespersen, Growth and Structure of the English Language, 3rd ed. 

Leipzig 1919. 
Hilmer Sch = H. Hilmer, Schallnachahmung, Wortschopfung u. Bedeutungt- 

wandel, Halle 1914. 
Hirt GDS == H. Hirt, Geschichtt dear deutschen Sprache, Miinchen 1919. 

Idg = Die Indogermanen, Strassburg 1905-7. 
Humboldt Versch = W. v. Humboldt, Verschiedenheit dea menachlichen 

Sprachbaues (number of pages as in the original edition). 
IF = Indogermaniachc Fortchungen. 

KZ = Kuhn's Zeitschrift fur vergleichende Sprochforschung. 
Lasch S = R. Lasch, Sondersprochen u. ihre Entstehung, Wien 1907. 
LPh = O. Jespersen, Lehrbuch der Phonetik, 3te Aufl., Leipzig 1920. 
Madvig 1857 = J. N. Madvig, De grammatische Betegnelser, Copenhagen 1857. 

Kl = Kleine philologische Schriften, Leipzig 1875. 
ME. = Middle English. 

MEG = O. Jespersen, Modern English Grammar, Heidelberg 1909, 1914. 
Moillet DI = A. Meillet, Lea Dialectea Indo-Europeens, Paris 1908. 

Germ. = Caracteres gdneraux des Langues Germaniques, Paris 1917. 
Gr = Aperyu d'une Histoire de la Langue Grecque, Paris 1913. 
LI = Introduction a I 'etude comp. dea Languea Indo-Europeennes, 

2e ed., Paris 1908. 
Meinhof Ham = C. Meinhof, Die hamitiachen Sprachen, Hamburg 1912. 

MSA = Die moderne Sprachforechung in Afrika, Berlin 1910. 
Meringer L = R. Meringer, Aus dem Leben der Sprache, Berlin 1908. 
Misteli = F. Misteli, Charakteristik der haupta. Typen dea Sprachbaues, 

Berlin 1893. 

MSL = Memoirea de la Societe de Linguiatique de Paris. 
Fr. Muller Gr = Friedrich Muller, Grundriss der Sprachwiasenschaft, Wien 

1876 ff. 
Max Muller Ch = F. Max Miiller, Chips from a German Workshop, vol. iv, 

London 1875. 

NED = A New English Dictionary, by Murray, etc., Oxford 1884 ff. 
Noreen UL = A. Noreen, Abriaa der urgermaniachen Lautlehre, Strassburj 


VS = Vart Sprak, Lund 1903 ff. 
Nyrop Gr = Kr. Nyrop, Grammaire Historique de la Langue Francaitt, 

Copenhagen 1914 ff. 
OE. = Old English (Anglo-Saxon). 

Oertel = H. Oertel, Lectures on the Study of Language, New York 190L 
OFr. = Old French. 
ON. = Old Norse. 

Passy Ch = P. Passy, Les Changements Phonttiques, Paris 1890. 
Paul P = H. Paul, Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte, 4te Aufl., Halle 1909. 

Gr = Grundrisa der germaniachen Philologie. 

PBB = Beitrage zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache (Paul u. Braune). 
Pgdersen GKS = H. Pedereen, Vergl. Grammatik der keltischen Sprachen 

Gottingen 1909. 

PhG = O. Jespersen, Phonetiache Grundfragen, Leipzig 1904. 
Porzezinski Spr = V. Porzezinski, Einleitung in die Sprachwiaaenachaft, 

Leipzig 1910. 
Progr. = O. Jeepersen, Progress in Language, London 1894. 


Rask P = R. Rask [Prisskrift] Undersdgelse om det gamle Nordiske Sprogt 

Oprindelse, Copenhagen 1818. 
SA = Samlede Afhandlinger, Copenhagen 1834. 
Raumer Gsch = R. v. Raumer, Geschichte der germanischen Philologie, 

Munchen 1870. 
Ron j at = J. Ronjat, Le Developpement du Langage chez un Enfant BVjngu*, 

Paris 1913. 
Sandfeld Jensen S = Kr. Sandfeld Jensen, Sprogvidenskaben, Copenhagen 


Sprw = Die Sprachurissenschaft, Leipzig 1915. 
Saussure LG = F. de Saussure, Cours de Linguistigue Generate, Lausanne 

kyce P = A. H. Sayce, Principle* of Comparative Philology, 2nd ed,, London 


S = Introduction to the Science oj Language, London 1880. 
Scherer GDS = W. Scherer, Zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache, Berlin 

Schleicher I, II = A. Schleicher, Sprachvergleichende Untersuchungen, I-II, 

Bonn 1848, 1850. 

Bed = Die Bedevtung der Sprache, Weimar 1865. 
C = Compendium der vergl. Grammatik, 4te Aufl., Weimar 1876. 
D = Die deutsche Sprache, Stuttgart 1860. 
Darw. = Die Darwinische Theorie und die Sprachvrissentchaft, 

Weimar 1873. 

NV = Nomen und Verbum, Leipzig 1865. 
Schuchardt SID = H. Schuchardt, Slawo-Deutsches u. Slau-o-Italieniaches, 

Graz 1885. 

KS = Kreolische Studien (Wien, Akademie). 

Simonyi US = S. Simonyi, Die Ungarische Sprache, Strassburg 1907. 
Skt. = Sanskrit. 
Sommer Lat. = F. Sommer, Handbuch der latein. Laut- und Formenlehre, 

Heidelberg 1902. 

Stern = Clara and William Stern, Die Kindersprache, Leipzig 1907. 
StoSel Int. = C. Stoffel, Intensives and Down-toners, Heidelberg 1901. 
Streitberg Gesch = W. Streitberg, Geschichte der indogerm. Sprachurisaen' 

schaft, Strassburg 1917. 

Urg = Urgermanische Grammatik, Heidelberg 1896. 

Sturtevant LCh = E. H. Sturtevant, Linguistic Change, Chicago 1917. 
Sutterlin WSG = L. SutterUn, Dot Wesen der sprachlichen GebUde, Heidel- 
berg 1902. 

WW = Werden und Wesen der Sprache, Leipzig 1913. 
Sweet CP = H. Sweet, Collected Papers, Oxford 1913. 
H = The History of Language, London 1900. 
PS = The Practical Study of Languages, London 1899. 
Tegner SM = E. Tegner, Sprakets maJct ofver tanken, Stockholm 1880. 
Verner = BL Verner, Afhandlinger og Breve, Copenhagen 1903. 
Vechssler L = E. Wechssler, Giebt es Lautgesetze t Halle 1900. 
Tiitney G = W. D. Whitney, Life and Growth of Language, London 1875 
L = Language and the Study of Language, London 1868. 
M = Max Muller and the Science of Language, New York 1892. 
OLS = Oriental and Linguistic Studies, New York 1873-4. 
Wundt S = W. Wundt, Die Sprache, Leipzig 1900. 


I stands before the stressed syllable. 

indicates length of the preceding sound. 

[a-] as in alms. 

[aij as in tee. 

[au] as in house. 

[as] as in hat. 

[ei] as in hate. 

[e] as in care ; Fr. tel. 

[9] indistinct vowels. 

[i] as in fill ; Fr. qui. 

[r] as in feel ; Fr. fills. 

[o] as in Fr. seau. 

[oil] as in so. 

[D] open o-sounds. 

fu] as in full ; Fr. iou. 

[ir] as in fool ; Fr. epouse. 

[y] as in Fr. vt*. 
[A] as in cut. 
[] as in Fr. few. 
[oe] as in Fr. scewr. 
[-] French nasalization, 
[c] as in G. ich. 
[x] as in G., Sc. loch. 
[6] as in this. 
[j] as in j/ou. 
[)?] as in thick. 
[/] as in she. 
[5] as in measure. 
['] in Russian palatalization, in 
Danish glottal stop. 



BEFORE 1800 

1. Antiquity. 2. Middle Ages and Renaissance. 3. Eighteenth- 
century Speculation. Herder. 4. Jenisch. 

L 1. Antiquity. 

THE science of language began, tentatively and approximately, 
when the minds of men first turned to problems like these : How 
is it that people do not speak everywhere the same language ? 
How were words first created ? What is the relation between a 
name and the thing it stands for ? Why is such and such a person, 
or such and such a thing, called this and not that ? The first 
answers to these questions, like primitive answers to other riddles 
of the universe, were largely theological : God, or one particular 
god, had created language, or God led all animals to the first man 
in order that he might give them names. Thus in the Old Testa- 
ment the diversity of languages is explained as a punishment 
from God for man's crimes and presumption. These were great 
and general problems, but the minds of the early Jews were also 
occupied with smaller and more particular problems of language, 
as when etymological interpretations were given of such personal 
names as were not immediately self-explanatory. 

The same predilection for etymology, and a similar primitive 
kind of etymology, based entirely on a more or less accidental 
similarity of sound and easily satisfied with any fanciful connexion 
in sense, is found abundantly in Greek writers and in their Latin 
imitators. But to the speculative minds of Greek thinkers the 
problem that proved most attractive was the general and abstract 
one, Are words natural and necessary expressions of the notions 
underlying them, or are they merely arbitrary and conventional 
signs for notions that might have been equally well expressed by 
any other sounds ? Endless discussions were carried on about 
this question, as we see particularly from Plato's Kratylos, and 
no very definite result was arrived at, nor could any be expected 
so long as one language only formed the basis of the discussion 
even in our own days, after a century of comparative philology, 
the question still remains an open one. In Greece, the two catch- 
words phusei (by nature) and thesei (by convention) for centuries 

20 BEFORE 1800 [CH. i 

divided philosophers and grammarians into two camps, while 
some, like Sokrates in Plato's dialogue, though admitting that 
in language as actually existing there was no natural connexion 
between word and thing, still wished that an ideal language might 
be created in which words and things would be tied together in 
a perfectly rational way thus paving the way for Bishop Wilkins 
and other modern constructors of philosophical languages. 

Such abstract and a priori speculations, however stimulating 
and clever, hardly deserve the name of science, as this term is 
understood nowadays. Science presupposes careful observation 
and systematic classification of facts, and of that in the old Greek 
writers on language we find very little. The earliest masters in 
linguistic observation and classification were the old Indian gram- 
marians. The language of the old sacred hymns had become in 
many points obsolete, but religion required that not one iota of 
these revered texts should be altered, and a scrupulous oral tradition 
kept them unchanged from generation to generation in every 
minute particular. This led to a wonderfully exact analysis of 
speech sounds, in which every detail of articulation was care- 
fully described, and to a no less admirable analysis of grammatical 
forms, which were arranged systematically and described in a 
concise and highly ingenious, though artificial, terminology. The 
whole manner of treatment was entirely different from the methods 
of Western grammarians, and when the works of Panini and other 
Sanskrit grammarians were first made known to Europeans in 
the nineteenth century, they profoundly influenced our own lin- 
guistic science, as witnessed, among other things, by the fact that 
some of the Indian technical terms are still extensively used, for 
instance those describing various kinds of compound nouns. 

In Europe grammatical science was slowly and laboriously 
developed in Greece and later in Rome. Aristotle laid the founda- 
tion of the division of words into " parts of speech " and introduced 
the notion of case (ptosis). Hi a work in this connexion was 
continued by the Stoics, many of whose grammatical distinctions 
and terms are still in use, the latter in their Latin dress, which 
embodies some curious mistakes, as when genike, " the case of kind 
or species," was rendered genitivus, as if it meant "the case of 
origin," or, worse still, when aitiatike, " the case of object," was 
rendered accusativus, as if from aitidomai, ' I accuse.' In later 
times the philological school of Alexandria was particularly 
important, the object of research being the interpretation of the 
old poets, whose language was no longer instantly intelligible. 
Details of flexion and of the meaning of words were described 
and referred to the two categories of analogy or regularity and 
anomaly or irregularity, but real insight into the nature of language 


made very little progress either with the Alexandrians or with 
their Roman inheritors, and etymology still remained in the 
childlike stage. 

I. 2. Middle Ages and Renaissance. 

Nor did linguistic science advance in the Middle Ages. The 
chief thing then was learning Latin as the common language of 
the Church and of what little there was of civilization generally ; 
but Latin was not studied in a scientific spirit, and the various 
vernacular languages, which one by one blossomed out into 
languages of literature, even less so. 

The Renaissance in so far brought about a change in this, as 
it widened the horizon, especially by introducing the study of 
Greek. It also favoured grammatical studies through the stress 
it laid on correct Latin as represented in the best period of classical 
literature : it now became the ambition of humanists in all 
countries to write Latin like Cicero. In the following centuries 
we witness a constantly deepening interest in the various living 
languages of Europe, owing to the growing importance of native 
literatures and to increasing facilities of international traffic and 
communication in general. The most important factor here was, 
of course, the invention of printing, which rendered it incom- 
parably more easy than formerly to obtain the means of studying 
foreign languages. It should be noted also that in those times 
the prevalent theological interest made it a much more common 
thing than nowadays for ordinary scholars to have some know- 
ledge of Hebrew as the original language of the Old Testament. 
The acquaintance with a language so different in type from those 
spoken in Europe in many ways stimulated the interest in linguistic 
studies, though on the other hand it proved a fruitful source of 
error, because the position of the Semitic family of languages 
was not yet understood, and because Hebrew was thought to be 
the language spoken in Paradise, and therefore imagined to be 
the language from which all other languages were descended. 
All kinds of fanciful similarities between Hebrew and European 
languages were taken as proofs of the origin of the latter ; every 
imaginable permutation of sounds (or rather of letters) was looked 
upon as possible so long as there was a slight connexion in the 
sense of the two words compared, and however incredible it may 
seem nowadays, the fact that Hebrew was written from right to 
left, while we in our writing proceed from left to right, was 
considered justification enough for the most violent transposition 
of letters in etymological explanations. And yet all these flighty 
and whimsical comparisons served perhaps in some measure to 

22 BEFORE 1800 [CH. i 

pave the way for a more systematic treatment of etymology through 
collecting vast stores of words from which sober and critical minds 
might select those instances of indubitable connexion on which a 
sound science of etymology could eventually be constructed. 

The discovery and publication of texts in the old Gothonic 
(Germanic) languages, especially Wulfila's Gothic translation of 
the Bible, compared with which Old English (Anglo-Saxon), Old 
German and Old Icelandic texts were of less, though by no means 
of despicable, account, paved the way for historical treatment 
of this important group of languages in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries. But on the whole, the interest in the history 
of languages in those days was small, and linguistic thinkers thought 
it more urgent to establish vast treasuries of languages as actually 
spoken than to follow the development of any one language from 
century to century. Thus we see that the great philosopher 
Leibniz, who took much interest in linguistic pursuits and to whom 
we owe many judicious utterances on the possibility of a universal 
language, instigated Peter the Great to have vocabularies and 
specimens collected of all the various languages of his vast empire. 
To this initiative taken by Leibniz, and to the great personal 
interest that the Empress Catherine II took in these studies, we 
owe, directly or indirectly, the great repertories of all languages 
then known, first Pallas 's Linguarum totius orbis vocabularia 
comparativa (1786-87), then Hervas's Catdlogo de las Unguas 
de las naziones conocidas (1800-5), and finally Adelung's 
Mithridates oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde, (1806-17). In spite 
of their inevitable shortcomings, their uncritical and unequal 
treatment of many languages, the preponderance of lexical over 
grammatical information, and the use of biblical texts as their 
sole connected illustrations, these great works exercised a mighty 
influence on the linguistic thought and research of the time, and 
contributed very much to the birth of the linguistic science of the 
nineteenth century. It should not be forgotten, moreover, that 
Hervas was one of the first to recognize the superior importance 
of grammar to vocabulary for deciding questions of relationship 
between languages. 

It will be well here to consider the manner in which languages 
and the teaching of languages were generally viewed during the 
centuries preceding the rise of Comparative Linguistics. The chief 
language taught was Latin ; the first and in many cases the only 
grammar with which scholars came into contact was Lathi grammar. 
No wonder therefore that grammar and Latin grammar came 
in the minds of most people to be synonyms. Latin grammar 
played an enormous r61e in the schools, to the exclusion of many 
subjects (the pupil's own native language, science, history, etc.) 


which we are now beginning to think more essential for the educa- 
tion of the young. The traditional term for ' secondary school ' 
was in England ' grammar school ' and in Denmark ' latinskole,' 
and the reason for both expressions was obviously the same. 
Here, however, we are concerned with this privileged position of 
Latin grammar only in so far as it influenced the treatment of 
languages in general. It did so in more ways than one. 

Latin was a language with a wealth of flexional forms, and 
in describing other languages the same categories as were found 
in Latin were applied as a matter of course, even where there was 
nothing in these other languages which really corresponded to what 
was found in Latin. In English and Danish grammars paradigms 
of noun declension were given with such cases as accusative, dative 
and ablative, in spite of the fact that no separate forms for these 
cases had existed for centuries. All languages were indiscriminately 
saddled with the elaborate Latin system of tenses and moods in 
the verbs, and by means of such Procrustean methods the actual 
facts of many languages were distorted and misrepresented. 
Discriminations which had no foundation in reality were never- 
theless insisted on, while discriminations which happened to be 
non-existent in Latin were apt to be overlooked. The mischief 
consequent on this unfortunate method of measuring all grammar 
after the pattern of Latin grammar has not even yet completely 
disappeared, and it is even now difficult to find a single grammar 
of any language that is not here and there influenced by the 
Latin bias. 

Latin was chiefly taught as a written language (witness the 
totally different manner in which Latin was pronounced in 
the different countries, the consequence being that as early as the 
sixteenth century French and English scholars were unable to 
understand each other's spoken Latin). This led to the almost 
exclusive occupation with letters instead of sounds. The fact 
that all language is primarily spoken and only secondarily written 
down, that the real life of language is in the mouth and ear and 
not in the pen and eye, was overlooked, to the detriment of a real 
understanding of the essence of language and linguistic develop- 
ment ', and very often where the spoken form of a language was 
accessible scholars contented themselves with a reading knowledge. 
In spite of many efforts, some of which go back to the sixteenth 
century, but which did not become really powerful till the rise 
of modern phonetics in the nineteenth century, the fundamental 
significance of spoken as opposed to written language has not 
yet been fully appreciated by all linguists. There are still too 
many writers on philological questions who have evidently never 
tried to think in sounds instead of thinking in letters and symbols, 

24 BEFORE 1800 [CH. i 

and who would probably be sorely puzzled if they were to pro- 
nounce all the forms that come so glibly to their pens. What 
Sweet wrote in 1877 in the preface to his Handbook of Phonetics 
is perhaps less true now than it was then, but it still contains some 
elements of truth. " Many instances," he said, "might be quoted 
of the way in which important philological facts and laws have 
been passed over or misrepresented through the observer's want 
of phonetic training. Schleicher's failing to observe the Lithua- 
nian accents, or even to comprehend them when pointed out by 
Kurschat, is a striking instance." But there can be no doubt 
that the way in which Latin has been for centuries made the 
basis of all linguistic instruction is largely responsible for the 
preponderance of eye-philology to ear-philology in the history of 
our science. 

We next come to a point which to my mind is very important, 
because it concerns something which has had, and has justly had, 
enduring effects on the manner in which language, and especially 
grammar, is viewed and taught to this day. What was the object 
of teaching Latin in the Middle Ages and later ? Certainly not 
the purely scientific one of imparting knowledge for knowledge's 
own sake, apart from any practical use or advantage, simply in 
order to widen the spiritual horizon and to obtain the joy of pure 
intellectual understanding. For such a purpose some people with 
scientific leanings may here and there take up the study of some 
out-of-the-way African or American idiom. But the reasons for 
teaching and learning Latin were not so idealistic. Latin was 
not even taught and learnt solely with the purpose of opening the 
doors to the old classical or to the more recent religious literature 
in that language, but chiefly, and in the first instance, because 
Latin was a practical and highly important means of communication 
between educated people. One had to learn not only to read 
Latin, but also to write Latin, if one wanted to maintain no matter 
how humble a position in the republic of learning or in the hier- 
archy of the Church. Consequently, grammar was not (even 
primarily) the science of how words were inflected and how forms 
were used by the old Romans, but chiefly and essentially the 
art of inflecting words and of using the forms yourself, if you 
wanted to write correct Latin. This you must say, and these 
faults you must avoid such were the lessons imparted in the 
schools. Grammar was not a set of facts observed but of rules to 
be observed, and of paradigms, i.e. of patterns, to be followed. 
Sometimes this character of grammatical instruction is expressly 
indicated in the form of the precepts given, as in such memorial 
verses as this : " Tolle -me, -mi, -mu, -mis, Si declinare domus vis ! " 
In other words, grammar was prescriptive rather than descriptive. 


The current definition of grammar, therefore, was " ars bene 
dicendi et bene scribendi," " 1'art de bien dire et de bien ecrire," 
the art of speaking and -writing correctly. J. C. Scaliger said, 
" Grammatici unus finis est recte loqui." To attain to correct 
diction (' good grammar ') and to avoid faulty diction (' bad 
grammar '), such were the two objects of grammatical teaching. 
Now, the same point of view, in which the two elements of ' art ' 
and of 'correctness' entered so largely, was applied not only to 
Latin, but to other languages as well, when the various vernaculars 
came to be treated grammatically. 

The vocabulary, too, was treated from the same point of view. 
This is especially evident in the case of the dictionaries issued by 
the French and Italian Academies. They differ from dictionaries 
as now usually compiled in being not collections of all and any 
words their authors could get hold of within the limits of the 
language concerned, but in being selections of words deserving the 
recommendations of the best arbiters of taste and therefore fit 
to be used in the highest literature by even the most elegant or 
fastidious writers. Dictionaries thus understood were less descrip- 
tions of actual usage than prescriptions for the best usage of 

The normative way of viewing language is fraught with some 
great dangers which can only be avoided through a comprehen- 
sive knowledge of the historic development of languages and of 
the general conditions of linguistic psychology. Otherwise, the 
tendency everywhere is to draw too narrow limits for what is 
allowable or correct. In many cases one form, or one construc- 
tion, only is recognized, even where two or more are found in 
actual speech ; the question which is to be selected as the only good 
form comes to be decided too often by individual fancy or predilec- 
tion, where no scientific tests can yet be applied, and thus a form 
may often be proscribed which from a less narrow point of view 
might have appeared just as good as, or even better than, the 
one preferred in the official grammar or dictionary. In other 
instances, where two forms were recognized, the grammarian 
wanted to give rules for their discrimination, and sometimes on 
the basis of a totally inadequate induction he would establish 
nice distinctions not really warranted by actual usage distinctions 
which subsequent generations had to learn at school with the sweat 
of their brows and which were often considered most important 
in spite of their intrinsic insignificance. Such unreal or half -real 
subtle distinctions are the besetting sin of French grammarians 
from the ' grand siecle ' onwards, while they have played a much 
less considerable part in England, where people have been on the 
whole more inclined to let things slide as best they may on the 

26 BEFORE 1800 [CH. I 

'laissez faire' principle, and where no Academy was ever estab- 
lished to regulate language. But even in English rules are not 
unfrequently given in schools and in newspaper offices which are 
based on narrow views and hasty generalizations. Because a 
preposition at the end of a sentence may in some instances be 
clumsy or unwieldy, this is no reason why a final preposition should 
always and under all circumstances be considered a grave error. 
But it is of course easier for the schoolmaster to give an absolute 
and inviolable rule once and for all than to study carefully all 
the various considerations that might render a qualification 
desirable. If the ordinary books on Common Faults in Writing 
and Speaking English and similar works in other languages have 
not even now assimilated the teachings of Comparative and 
Historic Linguistics, it is no wonder that the grammarians of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with whom we are here 
concerned, should be in many ways guided by narrow and 
insufficient views on what ought to determine correctness of speech. 
Here also the importance given to the study of Latin was 
sometimes harmful ; too much was settled by a reference to Latin 
rules, even where the modern languages really followed rules of 
their own that were opposed to those of Latin. The learning of 
Latin grammar was supposed to be, and to some extent really 
was, a schooling in logic, as the strict observance of the rules of 
any foreign language is bound to be ; but the consequence of this 
was that when questions of grammatical correctness were to be 
settled, too much importance was often given to purely logical 
considerations, and scholars were sometimes apt to determine 
what was to be called ' logical ' in language according to whether 
it was or was not in conformity with Latin usage. This disposition, 
joined with the unavoidable conservatism of mankind, and more 
particularly of teachers, would in many ways prove a hindrance 
to natural developments in a living speech. But we must again 
take up the thread of the history of linguistic theory. 

I. 3. Eighteenth-century Speculation. Herder. 

The problem of a natural origin of language exercised some of 
the best-known thinkers of the eighteenth century. Rousseau 
imagined the first men setting themselves more or less deliberately 
to frame a language by an agreement similar to (or forming part 
of) the control social which according to him was the basis of all 
social order. There is here the obvious difficulty of imagining 
how primitive men who had been previously without any speech 
came to feel the want of language, and how they could agree on 
what sound was to represent what idea without having already 


some means of communication. Rousseau's whole manner of 
putting and of viewing the problem is evidently too crude to be 
of any real importance in the history of linguistic science. 

Condillac is much more sensible when he tries to imagine how 
a speechless man and a speechless woman might be led quite 
naturally to acquire something like language, starting with instinc- 
tive cries and violent gestures called forth by strong emotions. 
Such cries would come to be associated with elementary feelings, 
and new sounds might come to indicate various objects if produced 
repeatedly in connexion with gestures showing what objects the 
speaker wanted to call attention to. If these two first speaking 
beings had as yet very little power to vary their sounds, their 
child would have a more flexible tongue, and would therefore be 
able to, and be impelled to, produce some new sounds, the meaning 
of which his parents would guess at, and which they in their turn 
would imitate ; thus gradually a greater and greater number of 
words would come into existence, generation after generation 
working painfully to enrich and develop what had been already 
acquired, until it finally became a real language. 

The profoundest thinker on these problems in the eighteenth 
century was Johann Gottfried Herder, who, though he did little 
or nothing in the way of scientific research, yet prepared the rise 
of linguistic science. In his prize essay on the Origin of Language 
(1772) Herder first vigorously and successfully attacks the orthodox 
view of his age a view which had been recently upheld very 
emphatically by one Sussmilch that language could not have 
been invented by man, but was a direct gift from God. One of 
Herder's strongest arguments is that if language had been framed 
by God and by Him instilled into the mind of man, we should 
expect it to be much more logical, much more imbued with pure 
reason than it is as an actual matter of fact. Much in all existing 
languages is so chaotic and ill-arranged that it could not be God's 
work, but must come from the hand of man. On the other hand, 
Herder does not think that language was really ' invented ' by 
man although this was the word used by the Berlin Academy 
when opening the competition in which Herder's essay gained the 
prize. Language was not deliberately framed by man, but sprang 
of necessity from his innermost nature ; the genesis of language 
according to him is due to an impulse similar to that of the mature 
embryo pressing to be born. Man, in the same way as all animals, 
gives vent to his feelings in tones, but this is not enough ; it ia 
impossible to trace the origin of human language to these emotional 
cries alone. However much they may be refined and fixed, without 
understanding they can never become human, conscious language. 
Man differs from brute animals not in degree or in the addition of 

28 BEFORE 1800 [CH.I 

new powers, but in a totally different direction and development 
of all powers. Man's inferiority to animals in strength and sureness 
of instinct is compensated by bis wider sphere of attention ; the 
whole disposition of his mind as an unanalysable entity constitutes 
the impassable barrier between him and the lower animals. Man, 
then, 'shows conscious reflexion when among the ocean of sensa- 
tions that rush into his soul through all the senses he singles out 
one wave and arrests it, as when, seeing a lamb, he looks for a dis- 
tinguishing mark and finds it in the bleating, so that next time 
when he recognizes the same animal he imitates the sound of 
bleating, and thereby creates a name for that animal. Thus the 
lamb to him is ' the bleater,' and nouns are created from verbs, 
whereas, according to Herder, if language had been the creation 
of God it would inversely have begun with nouns, as that would 
have been the logically ideal order of procedure. Another charac- 
teristic trait of primitive languages is the crossing of various 
shades of feeling and the necessity of expressing thoughts through 
strong, bold metaphors, presenting the most motley picture. 
" The genetic cause lies in the poverty of the human mind and 
in the flowing together of the emotions of a primitive human 
being." Another consequence is the wealth of synonyms in 
primitive language ; " alongside of real poverty it has the most 
unnecessary superfluity." 

When Herder here speaks of primitive or ' original ' languages, 
he is thinking of Oriental languages, and especially of Hebrew. 
" We should never forget," says Edward Sapir, 1 " that Herder's 
time-perspective was necessarily very different from ours. While 
we unconcernedly take tens or even hundreds of thousands of 
years in which to allow the products of human civilization to 
develop, Herder was still compelled to operate with the less than 
six thousand years that orthodoxy stingily doled out. To us the 
two or three thousand years that separate our language from the 
Old Testament Hebrew seems a negligible quantity, when specu- 
lating on the origin of language in general ; to Herder, however, 
the Hebrew and the Greek of Homer seemed to be appreciably 
nearer the oldest conditions than our vernaculars hence his 
exaggeration of their ursprilnglichkeit." 

Herder's chief influence on the science of speech, to my mind, 
is not derived directly from the ideas contained in his essay on 
the actual origin of speech, but rather indirectly through the 
whole of his life's work. He had a very strong sense of the value 
of everything that had grown naturally (das naturwtichsige) ; he 
prepared the minds of his countrymen for the manysided recep- 

* See his essay on Herder's " Ursprung der sprache " in Modern 
5. 117 (1907). 


tivenesa of the Romanticists, who translated and admired the 
popular poetry of a great many countries, which had hitherto been 
terrce incognita ; and he was one of the first to draw attention to 
the great national value of his own country's medieval literature 
and its folklore, and thus was one of the spiritual ancestors of 
Grimm. He sees the close connexion that exists between language 
and primitive poetry, or that kind of spontaneous singing that 
characterizes the childhood or youth of mankind, and which is 
totally distinct from the artificial poetry of later ages. But to 
him each language is not only the instrument of literature, but 
itself literature and poetry. A nation speaks its soul in the words 
it uses. Herder admires his own mother -tongue, which to him 
is perhaps inferior to Greek, but superior to its neighbours. The 
combinations of consonants give it a certain measured pace ; it 
does not rush forward, but walks with the firm carriage of a 
German. The nice gradation of vowels mitigates the force of 

. the consonants, and the numerous spirants make the German 
speech pleasant and endearing. Its syllables are rich and firm, 
its phrases are stately, and its idiomatic expressions are emphatic 
and serious. Still in some ways the present German language is 

: degenerate if compared with that of Luther, and still more with 
that of the Suabian Emperors, and much therefore remains to be 

i done in the way of disinterring and revivifying the powerful 

! expressions now lost. Through ideas like these Herder not only 
exercised a strong influence on Goethe and the Romanticists, 
but also gave impulses to the linguistic studies of the following 
generation, and caused many younger men to turn from the 
well-worn classics to fields of research previously neglected. 

L 4. Jenisch. 

Where questions of correct language or of the best usage are 
dealt with, or where different languages are compared with regard 
to their efficiency or beauty, as is done very often, though more 
often in dilettante conversation or in casual remarks in literary 
works than in scientific linguistic disquisitions, it is no far cry to 
the question, What would an ideal language be like ? But such 
is the matter-of-factness of modern scientific thought, that probably 
no scientific Academy in our own days would think of doing what 
the Berlin Academy did in 1794 when it offered a prize for the 
best essay on the ideal of a perfect language and a comparison of 
the best-known languages of Europe as tested by the standard 
of such an ideal. A Berlin pastor, D. Jenisch, won the prize, and 
in 1796 brought out his book under the title Philosophisch-kritische 
rergleichung und n-urdigung von vierzehn altern und neuern sprachen 

30 BEFORE 1800 [CH. i 

Europens a book which is even now well worth reading, the 
more so because its subject has been all but completely neglected 
in the hundred and twenty years that have since intervened. In 
the Introduction the author has the following passage, which 
might be taken as the motto of Wilhelm v. Humboldt, Steinthal, 
Finck and Byrne, who do not, however, seem to have been 
inspired by Jenisch : " In language the whole intellectual and 
moral essence of a man is to some extent revealed. ' Speak, and 
you are ' is rightly said by the Oriental. The language of the 
natural man is savage and rude, that of the cultured man is elegant 
and polished. As the Greek was subtle in thought and sensuously 
refined in feeling as the Roman was serious and practical rather 
than speculative as the Frenchman is popular and sociable 
as the Briton is profound and the German philosophic so are 
also the languages of each of these nations." 

Jenisch then goes on to say that language as the organ for 
communicating our ideas and feelings accomplishes its end if it 
represents idea and feeling according to the actual want or need 
of the mind at the given moment. We have to examine in each 
case the following essential qualities of the languages compared, 
(1) richness, (2) energy or emphasis, (3) clearness, and (4) euphony. 
Under the head of richness we are concerned not only with the 
number of words, first for material objects, then for spiritual and 
abstract notions, but also with the ease with which new words 
can be formed (lexikalische bildsamkeit). The energy of a language 
is shown in its lexicon and in its grammar (simplicity of grammatical 
structure, absence of articles, etc.), but also in " the characteristic 
energy of the nation and its original writers." Clearness and 
definiteness in the same way are shown in vocabulary and grammar, 
especially in a regular and natural syntax. Euphony, finally, 
depends not only on the selection of consonants and vowels 
utilized in the language, but on their harmonious combination, the 
general impression of the language being more important than any 
.details capable of being analysed. 

These, then, are the criteria by which Greek and Latin and a 
number of living languages are compared and judged. The author 
displays great learning and a sound practical knowledge of many 
languages, and his remarks on the advantages and shortcomings 
of these are on the whole judicious, though often perhaps too much 
stress is laid on the literary merits of great writers, which have 
really no intrinsic connexion with the value of a language as such. 
It depends to a great extent on accidental circumstances whether 
a language has been or has not been used in elevated literature, 
and its merits should be estimated, so far as this is possible, inde- 
pendently of the perfection of its literature. Jenisch's prejudice 

4] JENISCH 31 

in that respect is shown, for instance, when he says (p. 36) that 

the endeavours of Hickes are entirely futile, when he tries to make 

out regular declensions and conjugations in the barbarous language 

of Wdlfila's translation of the Bible. But otherwise Jenisch is 

singularly free from prejudices, as shown by a great number of 

! passages in which other languages are praised at the expense of 

his own. Thus, on p. 396, he declares German to be the most 

repellent contrast to that most supple modern language, French, 

on account of its unnatural word-order, its eternally trailing 

article, its want of participial constructions, and its interminable 

! auxiliaries (as in ' ich werde geliebt werden, ich wtirde geliebt 

worden sein,' etc.), with the frequent separation of these auxiliaries 

! from the main verb through extraneous intermediate words, all 

of which gives to German something incredibly awkward, which 

to the reader appears as lengthy and diffuse and to the writer as 

inconvenient and intractable. It is not often that we find an 

| author appraising his own language with such severe impartiality, 

s and I have given the passage also to show what kind of problems 

I confront the man who wishes to compare the relative value of 

languages as wholes. Jenisch's view here forms a striking contrast 

to Herder's appreciation of their common mother -tongue. 

Jenisch's book does not seem to have been widely read by 
nineteenth-century scholars, who took up totally different problems. 
Those few who read it were perhaps inclined to say with S. Lefmann 
; (see his book on Franz Bopp, Nachtrag, 1897, p. xi) that it is diffi- 
: cult to decide which was the greater fool, the one who put this 
problem or the one who tried to answer it. This attitude, however, 
towards problems of valuation in the matter of languages is 
neither just nor wise, though it is perhaps easy to see how students 
! of comparative grammar were by the very nature of their study 
led to look down upon those who compared languages from the 
point of view of aesthetic or literary merits. Anyhow, it seems to 
me no small merit to have been the first to treat such problems 
as these, which are generally answered in an off-hand way 
according to a loose general judgement, so as to put them on a 
scientific footing by examining in detail what it is that makes us 
more or less instinctively prefer one language, or one turn or expres- 
sion in a language, and thus lay the foundation of that inductive 
aesthetic theory of language which has still to be developed in a 
truly scientific spirit. 


I L Introduction. Sanskrit. 2. Friedrich von Schlegel. 3. Rasmus 
Raak. 4. Jacob Grimm. 5. The Sound Shift. 6. Franz Bopp. 
7. Bopp continued. 8. Wilhelm von Humboldt. 9. Grimm 
once more. 

n. 1. Introduction. Sanskrit. 

THE nineteenth century witnessed an enormous growth and 
development of the science of language, which in some respects 
came to present features totally unknown to previous centuries. 
The horizon was widened ; more and more languages were described, 
studied and examined, many of them for their own sake, as they 
had no important literature. Everywhere a deeper insight was 
gained into the structures even of such languages as had been 
for centuries objects of study ; a more comprehensive and more 
incisive classification of languages was obtained with a deeper 
understanding of their mutual relationships, and at the same time 
linguistic forms were not only described and analysed, but also 
explained, their genesis being traced as far back as historical 
evidence allowed, if not sometimes further. Instead of contenting 
itself with stating when and where a form existed and how it looked 
and was employed, linguistic science now also began to ask why 
it had taken that definite shape, and thus passed from a purely 
descriptive to an explanatory science. 

The chief innovation of the beginning of the nineteenth century 
was the historical point of view. On the whole, it must be said 
that it was reserved for that century to apply the notion of history 
to other things than wars and the vicissitudes of dynasties, and 
thus to discover the idea of development or evolution as pervading 
the whole universe. This brought about a vast change in the 
science of language, as in other sciences. Instead of looking at such 
a language as Latin as one fixed point, and instead of aiming at 
fixing another language, such as French, in one classical form, 
the new science viewed both as being in constant flux, as growing, 
as moving, as continually changing. It cried aloud like Heraclitus 



" Panta rei," and like Galileo " Eppur si muove." And lo ! the 
better this historical point of view was applied, the more secrets 
languages seemed to unveil, and the more light seemed also to be 
thrown on objects outside the proper sphere of language, such as 
ethnology and the early history of mankind at large and of 
particular countries. 

It is often said that it was the discovery of Sanskrit that was 
the real turning-point in the history of linguistics, and there is 
some truth in this assertion, though we shall see on the one hand 
that Sanskrit was not in itself enough to give to those who studied 
it the true insight into the essence of language and linguistic science, 
and on the other hand that real genius enabled at least one man 
to grasp essential truths about the relationships and development 
of languages even without a knowledge of Sanskrit. Still, it must 
be said that the first acquaintance with this language gave a mighty 
impulse to linguistic studies and exerted a lasting influence on 
the way in which most European languages were viewed by scholars, 
and it will therefore be necessary here briefly to sketch the history 
of these studies. India was very little known in Europe till the 
mighty struggle between the French and the English for the mastery 
of its wealth excited a wide interest also in its ancient culture. 
It was but natural that on this intellectual domain, too, the French 
and the English should at first be rivals and that we should find 
both nations represented in the pioneers of Sanskrit scholarship. 
The French Jesuit missionary Cceurdoux as early as 1767 sent to 
the French Institut a memoir in which he called attention to the 
similarity of many Sanskrit words with Latin, and even compared 
the flexion of the present indicative and subjunctive of Sanskrit 
asmi, ' I am,' with the corresponding forms of Latin grammar. 
Unfortunately, however, his work was not printed till forty years 
later, when the same discovery had been announced independently 
by others. The next scholar to be mentioned in this connexion 
is Sir William Jones, who in 1796 uttered the following memorable 
words, which have often been quoted in books on the history of 
linguistics : " The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, 
is of a wonderful structure ; more perfect than the Greek, more 
copious than the Latin and more exquisitely refined than either ; 
yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots 
of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have 
been produced by accident ; so strong, indeed, that no philologer 
could examine them all three without believing them to have 
sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer 
exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for 
supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic . . . had the same 
origin with the Sanscrit ; and the old Persian might be added to 



the same family." Sir W. Jones, however, did nothing to carry 
out in detail the comparison thus inaugurated, and it was reserved 
for younger men to follow up the clue he had given. 

n. 2. Friedrich von Schlegel. 

One of the books that exercised a great influence on the develop- 
ment of linguistic science in the beginning of the nineteenth century 
was Friedrich von Schlegel's Ueber die sprache und weisheit 
der Indier (1808). Schlegel had studied Sanskrit for some years 
in Paris, and in his romantic enthusiasm he hoped that the study 
of the old Indian books would bring about a revolution in European 
thought similar to that produced in the Renaissance through the 
revival of the study of Greek. We are here concerned exclusively 
with his linguistic theories, but to his mind they were inseparable 
from Indian religion and philosophy, or rather religious and philo- 
sophic poetry. He is struck by the similarity between Sanskrit 
and the best-known European languages, and gives quite a number 
of words from Sanskrit found with scarcely any change in German, 
Greek and Latin. He repudiates the idea that these similarities 
might be accidental or due to borrowings on the side of the Indians, 
saying expressly that the proof of original relationship between 
these languages, as well as of the greater age of Sanskrit, lies 
in the far-reaching correspondences in the whole grammatical 
structure of these as opposed to many other languages. In this 
connexion it is noticeable that he is the first to speak of ' com- 
parative grammar ' (p. 28), but, like Moses, he only looks into this 
promised land without entering it. Indeed, his method of compari- 
son precludes him from being the founder of the new science, for 
he says himself (p. 6) that he will refrain from stating any rules 
for change or substitution of letters (sounds), and require complete 
identity of the words used as proofs of the descent of languages. 
He adds that in other cases, " where intermediate stages are histori- 
cally demonstrable, we may derive giorno from dies, and when 
Spanish so often has h for Latin /, or Lathi p very often becomes / 
in the German form of the same word, and c not rarely becomes h 
[by the way, an interesting foreshadowing of one part of the dis- 
covery of the Germanic sound-shifting], then this may be the 
foundation of analogical conclusions with regard to other less 
evident instances." If he had followed up this idea by establishing 
similar ' sound-laws,' as we now say, between Sanskrit and other 
languages, he would have been many years ahead of his time ; 
as it is, his comparisons are those of a dilettante, and he sometimes 
falls into the pitfalls of accidental similaritie? while overlooking 
the real correspondences. He is also led astray by the idea of a 


particularly close relationship between Persian and German, an 
idea which at that time was widely spread l we find it in Jenisch 
and even in Bopp's first book. 

Schlegel is not afraid of surveying the whole world of human 
languages ; he divides them into two classes, one comprising 
Sanskrit and its congeners, and the second all other languages. 
In the former he finds organic growth of the roots as shown by 
their capability of inner change or, as he terms it, ' flexion/ while 
in the latter class everything is effected by the addition of affixes 
(prefixes and suffixes). In Greek he admits that it would be 
possible to believe in the possibility of the grammatical endings 
(bildungssylben) having arisen from particles and auxiliary 
words amalgamated into the word itself, but in Sanskrit even 
the last semblance of this possibility disappears, and it becomes 
necessary to confess that the structure of the language is formed 
in a thoroughly organic way through flexion, i.e. inner changes 
and modifications of the radical sound, and not composed merely 
mechanically by the addition of words and particles. He admits, 
however, that affixes in some other languages have brought about 
something that resembles real flexion. On the whole he finds that 
the movement of grammatical art and perfection (der gang der 
bloss grammatischen kunst und ausbildung, p. 56) goes in opposite 
directions in the two species of languages. In the organic lan- 
guages, which represent the highest state, the beauty and art of their 
structure is apt to be lost through indolence ; and German as well 
as Romanic and modern Indian languages show this degeneracy 
when compared with the earlier forms of the same languages. 
In the affix languages, on the other hand, we see that the beginnings 
are completely artless, but the ' art ' in them grows more and more 
perfect the more the affixes are fused with the main word. 

As to the question of the ultimate origin of language, Schlegel 
thinks that the diversity of linguistic structure points to different 
beginnings. While some languages, such as Manchu, are so inter- 
woven with onomatopoeia that imitation of natural sounds must 
have played the greatest role in their formation, this is by no 
means the case in other languages, and the perfection of the oldest 
organic or flexional languages, such as Sanskrit, shows that they 
cannot be derived from merely animal sounds ; indeed, they form an 
additional proof, if any such were needed, that men did not every- 
where start from a brutish state, but that the clearest and intensest 
reason existed from the very first beginning. On all these points 
Schlegel's ideas foreshadow views that are found in later works ; 
and it is probable that his fame as a writer outside the philological 
field gave to his linguistic speculations a notoriety which his often 
1 It dates back to Vulcanitw, 1597 ; see Streitberg, IF 35. 182. 


loose and superficial reasonings would not otherwise have acquired 
for them. 

Schlegel's bipartition of the languages of the world carries 
in it the germ of a tripartition. On the .lowest stage of his second 
class he places Chinese, in which, as he acknowledges, the particles 
denoting secondary sense modifications consist in monosyllables 
that are completely independent of the actual word. It is clear that 
from Schlegel's own point of view we cannot here properly speak 
of ' affixes,' and thus Chinese really, though Schlegel himself does 
not say so, falls outside his affix languages and forms a class by 
itself. On the other hand, his arguments for reckoning Semitic 
languages among affix languages are very weak, and he seems 
also somewhat inclined to say that much in their structure re- 
sembles real flexion. If we introduce these two changes into his 
system, we arrive at the threefold division found in slightly different 
shapes in most subsequent works on general linguistics, the first 
to give it being perhaps Schlegel's brother, A. W. Schlegel, who 
speaks of (1) les langues sans aucune structure grammaticale 
under which misleading term he understands Chinese with its 
unchangeable monosyllabic words ; (2) les langues qui emploient 
des affixes ; (3) les langues a inflexions. 

Like his brother, A. W. Schlegel places the flexional languages 
highest and thinks them alone ' organic.' On the other hand, he 
subdivides flexional languages into two classes, synthetic and 
analytic, the latter using personal pronouns and auxiliaries in 
the conjugation of verbs, prepositions to supply the want of 
cases, and adverbs to express the degrees of comparison. While 
the origin of the synthetic languages loses itself in the darkness 
of ages, the analytic languages have been created in modern times ; 
all those that we know are due to the decomposition of synthetic 
languages. These remarks on the division of languages are found 
in the Introduction to the book Observations sur la langue et 
la litter ature proven pile (1818) and are thus primarily meant to 
account for the contrast between synthetic Latin and analytic 

n. 3. Rasmus Rask. 

We now come to the three greatest names among the initiators 
of linguistic science in the beginning of the nineteenth century. 
If we give them in their alphabetical order, Bopp, Grimm and 
Rask, we also give them in the order of merit in which most sub- 
sequent historians have placed them. The works that constitute 
their first claims to the title of founder of the new science came \ 
in close succession, Bopp's Conjugationssystem in 1816, Rask's 
Understgelse in 1818, and the first volume of Grimm's Grammatik in 


1819. While Bopp is entirely independent of the two others, we 
shall see that Grimm was deeply influenced by Rask, and as the 
latter's contributions to our science began some years before his 
chief work just mentioned (which had also been finished in manu- 
script in 1814, thus two years before Bopp's Conjugationssystem), 
the best order in which to deal with the three men will perhaps 
be to take Rask first, then to mention Grimm, who in some ways 
was his pupil, and finally to treat of Bopp : in this way we shall 
also be enabled to see Bopp in close relation with the subsequent 
development of Comparative Grammar, on which he, and not 
Rask, exerted the strongest influence. 

Born in a peasant's hut in the heart of Denmark in 1787, Rasmus 
Rask was a grammarian from his boyhood. When a copy of the 
Heim-skringla was given him as a school prize, he at once, without 
any grammar or dictionary, set about establishing paradigms, and 
so, before he left school, acquired proficiency in Icelandic, as well 
as in many other languages. At the University of Copenhagen 
he continued in the same course, constantly widened his linguistic 
horizon and penetrated into the grammatical structure of the 
most diverse languages. Icelandic (Old Norse), however, remained 
his favourite study, and it filled him with enthusiasm and national 
pride that " our ancestors had such an excellent language," the 
excellency being measured chiefly by the full flexional system which 
Icelandic shared with the classical tongues, partly also by the 
pure, unmixed state of the Icelandic vocabulary. His first book 
(1811) was an Icelandic grammar, an admirable production when 
we consider the meagre work done previously in this field. With 
great lucidity he reduces the intricate forms of the language into 
a consistent system, and his penetrating insight into the essence 
of language is seen when he explains the vowel changes, which we 
now comprise under the name of mutation or umlaut, as due to 
the approximation of the vowel of the stem to that of the ending, 
at that time a totally new point of view. This we gather from 
Grimm's review, in which Rask's explanation is said to be " more 
astute than true " (" mehr scharfsinnig als wahr," Kleinere scTiriften, 
7. 518). Rask even sees the reason of the change in the plural 
6Zo5 as against the singular 6?at5 in the former having once ended 
in -u, which has since disappeared. This is, so far as I know, the 
first inference ever drawn to a prehistoric state of language. 

In 1814, during a prolonged stay in Iceland, Rask sent down 
to Copenhagen his most important work, the prize essay on the 
origin of the Old Norse language (Under spgehe om det gamle 
nordiske, eller island&ke sprogs oprindelse) which for various 
reasons was not printed till 1818. If it had been published when 
it was finished, and especially if it had been printed in a language 


better known than Danish, Rask might well have been styled the 
founder of the modern science of language, for his work contains 
the best exposition of the true method of linguistic research 
written in the first half of the nineteenth century and applies 
this method to the solution of a long series of important questions. 
Only one part of it was ever translated into another language, 
and this was unfortunately buried in an appendix to Vater's 
Vergleichungstafeln, 1822. Yet Rask's work even now repays 
careful perusal, and I shall therefore give a brief resume of its 
principal contents. 

Language according to Rask is our principal means of finding 
out anything about the history of nations before the existence of 
written documents, for though everything may change in religion, 
customs, laws and institutions, language generally remains, if not 
unchanged, yet recognizable even after thousands of years. But 
in order to find out anything about the relationship of a language 
we must proceed methodically and examine its whole structure 
instead of comparing mere details ; what is here of prime importance 
is the grammatical system, because words are very often taken 
over from one language to another, but very rarely grammatical 
forms. The capital error in most of what has been written on 
this subject is that this important point has been overlooked. 
That language which has the most complicated grammar is nearest 
to the source ; however mixed a language may be, it belongs to 
the same family as another if it has the most essential, most 
material and indispensable words in common with it ; pronouns 
and numerals are in this respect most decisive. If in such words 
there are so many points of agreement between two languages that 
it is possible to frame rules for the transitions of letters (in other 
passages Rask more correctly says sounds) from the one language 
to the other, there is a fundamental kinship between the two 
languages, more particularly if there are corresponding similarities 
in their structure and constitution. This is a most important 
thesis, and Rask supplements it by saying that transitions of 
sounds are naturally dependent on their organ and manner of 

Next Rask proceeds to apply these principles to his task of 
finding out the origin of the Old Icelandic language. He describes 
its position in the * Gothic ' (Gothonic, Germanic) group and 
then looks round to find congeners elsewhere. He rapidly discards 
Greenlandic and Basque as being too remote in grammar and 
vocabulary ; with regard to Keltic languages he hesitates, but 
finally decides in favour of denying relationship. (He was soon 
to see his error in this ; see below.) Next he deals at some length 
with Finnic and Lapp, and comes to the conclusion that the sirni- 


laritics are due to loans rather than to original kinship. But when 
he comes to the Slavonic languages his utterances have a different 
ring, for he is here able to disclose so many similarities in funda- 
mentals that he ranges these languages within the same great 
family as Icelandic. The same is true with regard to Lithuanian 
and Lettic, which are here for the first time correctly placed as 
an independent sub-family, though closely akin to Slavonic. The 
comparisons with Latin, and especially with Greek, are even more 
detailed ; and Rask in these chapters really presents us with a suc- 
cinct, but on the whole marvellously correct, comparative grammar 
of Gothonic, Slavonic, Lithuanian, Latin and Greek, besides examin- 
ing numerous lexical correspondences. He does not yet know any 
of the related Asiatic languages, but throws out the hint that 
Persian and Indian may be the remote source of Icelandic through 
Greek. Greek he considers to be the ' source ' or ' root ' of the 
Gothonic languages, though he expresses himself with a degree of 
uncertainty which forestalls the correct notion that these languages 
have all of them sprung from the same extinct and unknown 
language. This view is very clearly expressed in a letter he wrote 
from St. Petersburg in the same year in which his Undersvgelse 
was published ; he here says : " I divide our family of languages 
in this way : the Indian (Dekanic, Hindostanic), Iranic (Persian, 
Armenian. Ossetic), Thracian (Greek and Latin), Sarmatian 
(Lettic and Slavonic), Gothic (Germanic and Skandinavian) 
and Keltic (Britannic and Gaelic) tribes" (SA 2. 281, dated 
June 11, 1818). 

This is the fullest and clearest account of the relationships 
of our family of languages found for many years, and Rask showed 
true genius in the way in which he saw what languages belonged 
together and how they were related. About the same time he gave 
a classification of the Finno-Ugrian family of languages which is 
pronounced by such living authorities on these languages as Vilhelm 
Thomsen and Emil Setala to be superior to most later attempts. 
When travelling in India he recognized the true position of Zend, 
about which previous scholars had held the most erroneous views, 
and his survey of the languages of India and Persia was thought 
valuable enough in 1863 to be printed from his manuscript, forty 
years after it was written. He was also the first to see that the 
Dravidian (by him called Malabaric) languages were totally different 
from Sanskrit. In his short essay on Zend (1826) he aho inci- 
dentally gave the correct value of two letters in the first cunei- 
form writing, and thus made an important contribution towards 
the final deciphering of these inscriptions. 

His long tour (1816-23) through Sweden, Finland, Russia, 
the Caucasus, Persia and India was spent in the most intense study 


of a great variety of languages, but unfortunately brought on the 
illness and disappointments which, together with economic anxieties, 
marred the rest of his short life. 

When Rask died in 1832 he had written a, great number of 
grammars of single languages, all of them remarkable for their 
accuracy in details and clear systematic treatment, more parti- 
cularly of morphology, and some of them breaking new ground ; 
besides his Icelandic grammar already mentioned, his Anglo-Saxon, 
Frisian and Lapp grammars should be specially named. Historical 
grammar in the strict sense is perhaps not his forte, though in a 
remarkable essay of the year 1815 he explains historically a great 
many features of Danish grammar, and in his Spanish and Italian 
grammars he in some respects forestalls Diez's historical explana- 
tions. But in some points he stuck to erroneous views, a notable 
instance being his system of old Gothonic ' long vowels,' which 
was reared on the assumption that modern Icelandic pronunciation 
reflects the pronunciation of primitive times, while it is really a 
recent development, as Grimm saw from a comparison of all the 
old languages. With regard to consonants, however, Rask was 
the clearer-sighted of the two, and throughout he had this immense 
advantage over most of the comparative linguists of his age, that 
he had studied a great many languages at first hand with native 
speakers, while the others knew languages chiefly or exclusively 
through the medium of books and manuscripts. In no work of 
that period, or even of a much later time, are found so many first- 
hand observations of living speech as in Rask's Retskrivningslcere. 
Handicapped though he was in many ways, by poverty and illness 
and by the fact that he wrote in a language so little known as 
Danish, Rasmus Rask, through his wide outlook, his critical 
sagacity and aversion to all fanciful theorizing, stands out as 
one of the foremost leaders of linguistic science. 1 

II. 4. Jacob Grimm. 

Jacob Grimm's career was totally different from Rask's. Born 
in 1785 as the son of a lawyer, he himself studied law and came 
under the influence of Savigny, whose view of legal institutions as 
the outcome of gradual development in intimate connexion with 
popular tradition and the whole intellectual and moral life of the 

1 I have given a life of Bask and an appraisement of his work in the 
small volume Rasmus Bask (Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 1918). See also Vilh. 
Thomson, Samlede afhandlinger, 1. 47 ff. and 125 ff. A good and full 
account of Rask's work is found in Raumer, Oesch. ; cf. also Paul, Or. 
Recent short appreciations of his genius may be read in Trombetti, 
Come, si fa la critica, 1907, p. 41, Meillet, LI, p. 415, Hirt, Idg, pp. 74 
and 578. 


people appealed strongly to the young man's imagination. But 
he was drawn even more to that study of old German popular 
poetry which then began to be the fashion, thanks to Tieck and 
other Romanticists ; and when he was in Paris to assist Savigny 
with his hist orico -legal research, the old German manuscripts in 
the Bibliotheque nationale nourished his enthusiasm for the 
poetical treasures of the Middle Ages. He became a librarian 
and brought out his first book, Ueber den altdeutschen meistergesang 
(1811). At the same time, with his brother Wilhelm as constant 
companion and fellow-worker, he began collecting popular tradi- 
tions, of which he published a first instalment in his famous Kinder- 
und hau&mdrchen (1812 ff.), a work whose learned notes and com- 
parisons may be said to have laid the foundation of the science of 
folklore. Language at first had only a subordinate interest to 
him, and when he tried his hand at etymology, he indulged in the 
wildest guesses, according to the method (or want of method) of 
previous centuries. A. W. Schlegel's criticism of his early attempts 
in this field, and still more Rask's example, opened Grimm's eyes 
to the necessity of a stricter method, and he soon threw himself 
with great energy into a painstaking and exact study of the oldest 
stages of the German language and its congeners. In his review 
(1812) of Rask's Icelandic grammar he writes : " Each individuality, 
even in the world of languages, should be respected as sacred ; 
it is desirable that even the smallest and most despised dialect 
should be left only to itself and to its own nature and in nowise 
subjected to violence, because it is sure to have some secret advan- 
tages over the greatest and most highly valued language." Here 
we meet with that valuation of the hitherto overlooked popular 
dialects which sprang from the Romanticists' interest in the 
* people ' and everything it had produced. Much valuable 
linguistic work was directly inspired by this feeling and by con- 
scious opposition to the old philology, that occupied itself exclu- 
sively with the two classical languages and the upper-class 
literature embodied in them. As Scherer expresses it (Jacob 
Grimm, 2te ausg., Berlin, 1885, p. 152) : " The brothers Grimm 
applied to the old national literature and to popular traditions 
the old philological virtue of exactitude, which had up to then 
been bestowed solely on Greek and Roman classics and on the Bible. 
They extended the field of strict philology, as they extended the 
field of recognized poetry. They discarded the aristocratic narrow- 
mindedness with which philologists looked down on unwritten 
tradition, on popular ballads, legends, fairy tales, superstition, 
nursery rimes. ... In the hands of the two Grimms philology 
became national and popular ; and at the same time a pattern was 
created for the scientific study of all the peoples of the earth and 


for a comparative investigation of the entire mental life of 
mankind, of which written literature is nothing but a small 

But though Grimm thus broke loose from the traditions of 
classical philology, he still carried with him one relic of it, namely 
the standard by which the merits of different languages were 
measured. " In reading carefully the old Gothonic (altdeutschen) 
sources, I was every day discovering forms and perfections which 
we generally envy the Greeks and Romans when we consider the 
present condition of our language.". . . " Six hundred years ago 
every rustic knew, that is to say practised daily, perfections and 
niceties in the German language of which the best grammarians 
nowadays do not even dream ; in the poetry of Wolfram von 
Eschenbach and of Hartmann von Aue, who had never heard of 
declension and conjugation, nay who perhaps did not even know 
how to read and write, many differences in the flexion and use of 
nouns and verbs are still nicely and unerringly observed, which 
we have gradually to rediscover in learned guise, but dare not 
reintroduce, for language ever follows its inalterable course." 

Grimm then sets about writing his great historical and com 
parative Deutsche Grammatik, taking the term ' deutsch ' in 
its widest and hardly justifiable sense of what is now ordinarily 
called Germanic and which is in this work called Gothonic. The 
first volume appeared in 1819, and in the preface we see that he 
was quite clear that he was breaking new ground and introducing 
a new method of looking at grammar. He speaks of previous 
German grammars and says expressly that he does not want his 
to be ranged with them. He charges them with unspeakable 
pedantry ; they wanted to dogmatize magisterially, while to Grimm 
language, like everything natural and moral, is an unconscious 
and unnoticed secret which is implanted in us in youth. Every 
German therefore who speaks his language naturally, i.e. untaught, 
may call himself his own living grammar and leave all school- 
masters' rules alone. Grimm accordingly has no wish to prescribe 
anything, but to observe what has grown naturally, and very 
appropriately he dedicates his work to Savigny, who has taught 
him how institutions grow in the life of a nation In the new 
preface to the second edition there are also some noteworthy 
indications of the changed attitude. " I am hostile to general 
logical notions in grammar ; they conduce apparently to strict- 
ness and solidity of definition, but hamper observation, which I 
take to be the soul of linguistic science. ... As my starting-point 
was to trace the never-resting (unstillstehende) element of our 
language which changes with time and place, it became necessary 
for me to admit one dialect after the other, and I could not even 


forbear to glance at those foreign languages that are ultimately 
related with ours." 

Here we have the first clear programme of that historical 
school which has since then been the dominating one in linguistics. 
But as language according to this new point of view was constantly 
changing and developing, so also, during these years, were Grimm's 
own ideas. And the man who then exercised the greatest influence 
on him was Rasmus Rask. When Grimm wrote the first edition 
of his Grammi.tik (1819), he knew nothing of Rask but the Icelandic 
grammar, but just before finishing his own volume Rask's prize 
essay reached him, and in the preface he at once speaks of it in 
the highest terms of praise, as he does also in several letters of 
this period ; he is equally enthusiastic about Rask's Anglo-Saxon 
grammar and the Swedish edition of his Icelandic grammar, neither 
of which reached him till after his own first volume had been printed 
off. The consequence was that instead of going on to the second 
volume, Grimm entirely recast the first volume and brought it 
out in a new shape in 1822. The chief innovation was the phono- 
logy or, as he calls it, " Erstes buch. Von den buchstaben," which 
was entirely absent in 1819, but now ran to 595 pages. 

II. 5. The Sound Shift 

This first book in the 1822 volume contains much, perhaps 
most, of what constitutes Grimm's fame as a grammarian, notably 
his exposition of the ' sound shift ' (lautverschiebung), which it 
has been customary in England since Max Muller to term * Grimm's 
Law.' If any one man is to give his name to this law, a better name 
would be ' Rask's Law,' for all these transitions, Lat. Gr. p=f, 
I = )> (th), k = h, etc.. are enumerated in Rask's Understgclse, 
p. 168, which Grimm knew before he wrote a single word about 
the sound shift. 

Now, it is interesting to compare the two scholars' treatment 
of these transitions. The sober-minded, matter-of-fact Rask 
contents himself with a bare statement of the facts, with just enough 
well -chosen examples to establish the correspondence ; the way 
in which he arranges the sounds shows that he saw their parallelism 
clearly enough, though he did not attempt to bring everything 
under one single formula, any more than he tried to explain why 
these sounds had changed. 1 Grimm multiplies the examples and 

1 Only in one subordinate point did Rask make a mistake (6 = 6), which 

is all the more venial as there are extremely few examples of this sound. 

Bredsdorff (Aarsagerne, 1821, p. 21) evidently had the law from Rask, and 

t in the comprehensive formula which Paul (Gr. 1. 86) misses in Rask 

and give* as Grimm's meritorious improvement on Rask. " The Germanic 


then systematizes the whole process in one formula so as to comprise 
also the ' second shift ' found in High German alone a shift 
well known to Rask, though treated by him in a different place 
(p. 68 f.). Grimm's formula looks thus : 

Greek p b f 
Gothic f p b 
High G. b(v)f p 

t d th 
th t d 
d z t 

k g ch 
h k g 
g ch k, 

which may be expressed generally thus, that tenuis (T) becomes 
aspirate (A) and then media (M), etc., or, tabulated : 

Greek T M A 
Gothic ATM 
High G. M A T. 

For this Grimm would of course have deserved great credit, 
because a comprehensive formula is more scientific than a rough 
statement of facts if the formula had been correct ; but unfortu- 
nately it is not so. In the first place, it breaks down in the very 
first instance, for there is no media in High German corresponding 
to Gr. p and Gothic / (cf . pous, fotus, fuss, etc.) ; secondly, High 
German has h just as Gothic has, corresponding to Greek k (cf. 
kardia, hairto, herz, etc.), and where it has g, Gothic has also g in 
accordance with rules unknown to Grimm and not explained till 
long afterwards (by Verner). But the worst thing is that the 
whole specious generalization produces the impression of regularity 
and uniformity only through the highly unscientific use of the 
word ' aspirate,' which is made to cover such phonetically disparate 
things as (1) combination of stop with following h, (2) combination 
of stop with following fricative, pf, ts written z, (3) voiceless fricative, 
/, s in G. das, (4) voiced fricative, v, 8 written th, and (5) h. Grimm 
rejoiced in his formula, giving as it does three chronological stages 
in each of the three subdivisions (tenuis, media, aspirate) of each of 
the three classes of consonants (labial, dental,' guttural '). This 
evidently took hold of his fancy through the mystic power of the 
number three, which he elsewhere (Gesch 1. 191, cf. 241) finds 
pervading language generally : three original vowels, a, t, u, three 
genders, three numbers (singular, dual, plural), three persons, three 
' voices ' (genera : active, middle, passive), three tenses (present, 
preterit, future), three declensions through a, ', u. As there is 
here an element of mysticism, so is there also in Grimm's highflown 

family has most often aspirates where Greek haa tenues, tenues where it j 
has mediae, and again media; where it has aspirates, e.g. Jod, Gr. pous ; horn, 
Gr. keras ; \>nr, Gr. treis ; padde, Gr. batrakhoa; kone, Gr. gune ; ti, Gr. deka; 
bcerer, Gr. pherv ; guide, Gr. khot& ; d0r, Gr. thura." To the word 'horn ' was 
appended a foot-note to the effect that h without doubt here originally was 
the German c/i -sound. Thia was one year before Grimm stated his law 1 


explanation of the whole process from pretended popular psy- 
chology, which is full of the cloudiest romanticism. " When 
once the language had made the first step and had rid itself of 
the organic basis of its sounds, it was hardly possible for it to 
escape the second step and not to arrive at the third stage, 1 
through which this development was perfected. . . . It is impossible 
not to admire the instinct by which the linguistic spirit (sprachgeist) 
carried this out to the end. A great many sounds got out of joint, 
but they always knew how to arrange themselves in a different 
place and to find the new application of the old law. I am not 
saying that the shift happened without any detriment, nay from 
one point of view the sound shift appears to me as a barbarous 
aberration, from which other more quiet nations abstained, but 
which is connected with the violent progress and craving for freedom 
which was found in Germany in the beginning of the Middle Ages 
and which initiated the transformation of Europe. The Germans 
pressed forward even in the matter of the innermost sounds 
of their language," etc., with remarks on intellectual progress 
and on victorious and ruling races. Grimm further says that 
"die dritte stufe des verschobnen lauts den kreislauf abschliesse 
und nach ihr ein neuer ansatz zur abweichung wieder von vorn 
anheben musse. Doch eben weil der sprachgeist seinen lauf 
vollbracht hat, scheint er nicht wieder neu beginnen zu wollen " 
(CDS 1. 292 f., 299). It would be difficult to attach any clear ideas 
to these words. 

Grimm's idea of a ' kreislauf ' is caused by the notion that the 
two shifts, separated by several centuries, represent one continued 
movement, while the High German shift of the eighth century has 
really no more to do with the primitive Gothonic shift, which took 
place probably some time before Christ, than has, for instance, 
the Danish shift in words like gribe, bide, bage, from gripae, bitce, 
bakce (about 1400), or the still more recent transition in Danish 
through which stressed t in tid, tyve,etc., sounds nearly like [ts], as 
in HG. zeit. There cannot possibly be any causal nexus between 
such transitions, separated chronologically by long periods, with 
just as little change in the pronunciation of these consonants as 
there has been in English. 3 

1 The muddling of the negatives is Grimm's, not the translator's. 

1 I am therefore surprised to find that in a recent article (Am. Journ. 
of Philol. 39. 415, 1918) Collitz praises Grimm's view in preference to Rask's 
because he saw " an inherent connexion between the various processes of 
the shifting," which were " subdivisions of one great law in which the formula 
T : A : M may be used to illustrate the shifting (in a single language) of three 
different groups of consonants and the result of a double or threefold shifting 
(in three different languages) of a single group of consonants. This great 
law was unknown to Rask." Collitz recognizes that " Grimm's law will 
hold good only if we accept the term ' aspirate ' in the broad sense in which 


Grimm was anything but a phonetician, and sometimes says 
things which nowadays cannot but produce a smile, as when he 
says (Gr 1.3) "in our word schrift, for instance, we express eight 
sounds through seven signs, for/ stands for ph " ; thus he earnestly 
believes that sch contains three sounds, s and the ' aspirate ' 
ch=c-\-h ! Yet through the irony of fate it was on the history of 
sounds that Grimm exercised the strongest influence. As in other 
parts of his grammar, so also in the " theory of letters " he gave 
fuller word lists than people had been accustomed to, and this 
opened the eyes of scholars to the great regularity reigning in this 
department of linguistic development. Though in his own etymo- 
logical practice he was far from the strict idea of ' phonetic law ' 
that played such a prominent role in later times, he thus paved the 
way for it. He speaks of law at any rate in connexion with the 
consonant shift, and there recognizes that it serves to curb wild 
etymologies and becomes a test for them (Gesch 291). The con- 
sonant shift thus became the law in linguistics, and because it 
affected a great many words known to everybody, and in a new 
and surprising way associated well-known Latin or Greek words 
with words of one's own mother-tongue, it became popularly the 
keystone of a new wonderful science. 

Grimm coined several of the terms now generally used in lin- 
guistics ; thus umlaut and ablaut, ' strong ' and ' weak ' declensions 
and conjugations. As to the first, we have seen that it was Rask 
who first understood and who taught Grimm the cause of this 
phenomenon, which in English has often been designated by 
the German term, while Sweet calls it ' mutation ' and others better 
' infection.' With regard to ' ablaut ' (Sweet : gradation, best 
perhaps in English apophony), Rask termed it 'omlyd,' a word 
which he never applied to Grimm's ' umlaut,' thus keeping the two 
kinds of vowel change as strictly apart as Grimm does. Apophony 
was first discovered in that class of verbs which Grimm called 
' strong ' ; he was fascinated by the commutation of the vowels 
in springe, sprang, gesprungen, and sees in it, as in bimbambum, 
something mystic and admirable, characteristic of the old German 
spirit. He was thus blind to the correspondences found in other 
languages, and his theory led him astray in the second volume, in 
which he constructed imaginary verbal roots to explain apophony j 
wherever it was found outside the verbs. 

it is employed by J. Grimm " but ' broad ' here means ' wrong ' or 
' unscientific.' There is no kreislauf in the case of initial k h ; only in ' 
a few of the nine series do we find three distinct stages (as in tres, three, drei) ; j 
here we have in Danish three stages, of which the third is a reversal to the i 
first (tre) ; in E. mother we have five stages : t, )?, t>, d, (OE. modor) and again 
8. Is there an "inherent connexion between the various processes of this 
shifting " too T 


Though Grimm, as we have seen, was by his principles and 
whole tendency averse to prescribing laws for a language, he is 
sometimes carried away by his love for mediaeval German, as 
when he gives as the correct nominative form der boge, though 
everybody for centuries had said der bog en. In the same way 
many of his followers would apply the historical method to questions 
of correctness of speech, and would discard the forms evolved in 
later times in favour of previously existing forms which were looked 
upon as more ' organic.' 

It will not be necessary here to speak of the imposing work 
done by Grimm in the rest of his long life, chiefly spent as a professor 
in Berlin. But in contrast to the ordinary view I must say that 
what appears to me as most likely to endure is his work on syntax, 
contained in the fourth volume of his grammar and in monographs. 
Here his enormous learning, his close power of observation, and 
his historical method stand him in good stead, and there is much 
good sense and freedom from that kind of metaphysical systematism 
which was triumphant in contemporaneous work on classical syntax. 
His services in this field are the more interesting because he did 
not himself seem to set much store by these studies and even 
said that syntax was half outside the scope of grammar. This 
utterance belongs to a later period than that of the birth of historical 
: and comparative linguistics, and we shall have to revert to it after 
sketching the work of the third great founder of this science, to 
whom we shall now turn. 

n. 6. Franz Bopp. 

The third, by some accounted the greatest, among the founders of 
i modern linguistic science was Franz Bopp. His life was unevent- 
1 ful. At the age of twenty-one (he was born in 1791 ) he went to Paris 
to study Oriental languages, and soon concentrated his attention 
on Sanskrit. His first book, from which it is customary in Germany 
to date the birth of Comparative Philology, appeared in 1816, while 
he was still in Paris, under the title Ueber des conjugations-system der 
sanskritsprache in vergleichung mit jenem dergriechischen,lateinischen, 
persischen und germaniscken sprache, but the latter part of the small 
volume was taken up with translations from Sanskrit, and for a 
long time he was just as much a Sanskrit scholar, editing and 
translating Sanskrit texts, as a comparative grammarian. He 
showed himself in the latter character in several papers read before 
the Berlin Academy, after he had been made a professor there in 
1822, and especially in his famous Vergleichende grammatik des 
Sanskrit, send, armenischen, griechischen, lateinuchen, litauischen, 
alislawischen, gotischen und deutechen, the first edition of which waa 


published between 1833 and 1849, the second in 1857, and the 
third in 1868. Bopp died in 1867. 

Of Bopp's Conjugationssystem a revised, rearranged and greatly 
improved English translation came out in 1820 under the title 
Analytical Comparison of the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and Teutonic 
Languages. This was reprinted with a good introduction by 
F. Techmer in his Internationale zeitschrift fur allgem. sprachwissen- 
schaft IV (1888), and in the following remarks I shall quote this 
(abbreviated AC) instead of, or alongside of, the German original 
(abbreviated C). 

Bopp's chief aim (and in this he was characteristically different 
from Rask) was to find out the ultimate origin of grammatical 
forms. He follows his quest by the aid of Sanskrit forms, though 
he does not consider these as the ultimate forms themselves : "I 
do not believe that the Greek, Latin, and other European languages 
are to be considered as derived from the Sanskrit in the state in 
which we find it in Indian books ; I feel rather inclined to consider 
them altogether as subsequent variations of one original tongue, 
which, however, the Sanskrit has preserved more perfect than its 
kindred dialects. But whilst therefore the language of the Brah- 
mans more frequently enables us to conjecture the primitive form 
of the Greek and Latin languages than what we discover in the 
oldest authors and monuments, the latter on their side also may 
not unfrequently elucidate the Sanskrit grammar " (AC 3). Herein 
subsequent research has certainly borne out Bopp's view. 

After finding out by a comparison of the grammatical forms 
of Sanskrit, Greek, etc., which of these forms were identical and 
what were their oldest shapes, he tries to investigate the ultimate 
origin of these forms. This he takes to be a comparatively easy 
consequence of the first task, but he was here too much under the 
influence of the philosophical grammar then in vogue. Gottfried 
Hermann (De emendanda ratione Grcecce grammaticce, 1801), | 
on purely logical grounds, distinguishes three things as necessary 
elements of each sentence, the subject, the predicate, and the copula , 
joining the first two elements together ; as the power of the verb i 
is to attribute the predicate to the subject, there is really only one i 
verb, namely the verb to be. Bopp's teacher in Paris, Silvestre 
de Sacy, says the same thing, and Bopp repeats : " A verb, in the j 
most restricted meaning of the term, is that part of speech byi 
which a subject is connected with its attribute. According to! 
this definition it would appear that there can exist only one verb, i 
namely, the substantive verb, in Latin esse ; in English, to be. . . . 
Languages of a structure similar to that of the Greek, Latin etc., j 
can express by one verb of this kind a whole logical proposition, inj 
which, however, that part of speech which expresses the connexion 


[of the subject with its attribute, which is the characteristic function 
of the verb, is generally entirely omitted or understood. The Latin 
! verb dat expresses the proposition ' he gives,' or * he is giving' : 
the letter t, indicating the third person, is the subject, da expresses 
the attribute of giving, and the grammatical copula is understood. 
In the verb potest, the latter is expressed, and potest unites in itself 
the three essential parts of speech, t being the subject, es the copula, 
and pot the attribute." 

Starting from this logical conception of grammar, Bopp is 
inclined to find everywhere the ' substantive verb ' to be in its 
Itwo Sanskrit forms as and bJiu as an integral part of verbal forms. 
:He is not the first to think that terminations, which are now in- 
jseparable parts of a verb, were originally independent words ; thus 
::Horne Tooke (in Epea pteroenta, 1786, ii. 429) expressly says that 
'," All those common terminations in any language . . . are them- 
selves separate words with distinct meanings," and explains, for 
instance, Latin ibo from t, ' go ' + 6, ' will,' from Greek boul- 
(omai) -j- o ' /,' from ego. Bopp's explanations are similar to this, 
though they do not imply such violent shortenings as that of boul- 
(omai) to b. He finds the root Sanskrit as, ' to be,' in Latin perfects 
like scrip-s-i, in Greek aorists like e-tup-s-a and in futures like tup-s-o. 
That the same addition thus indicates different tenses does not 
trouble Bopp greatly ; he explains Lat. fueram from/u + es -f am, 
etc., and says that the root/u " contains, properly, nothing to indi- 
cate past time, but the usage of language having supplied the want 
of an adequate inflexion, fui received the sense of a perfect, and 
fu-eram, which would be nothing more than an imperfect, that 
of a pluperfect, and after the same manner fu-ero signifies ' I shall 
have been,' instead of ' I shall be ' " (AC 57). All Latin verbal 
'endings containing r are thus explained as being ultimately formed 
with the substantive verb (ama-rem, etc.) ; thus among others the 
infinitives fac-ere, ed-ere, as well as esse, posse : " E is properly, in 
Latin, the termination of a simple infinitive active ; and the root 
Es produced anciently ese, by adding e ; the s having afterwards 
been doubled, we have esse. This termination e answers to the 
Greek infinitive in ai, einai . . ." (AC 58). 

If Bopp found a master -key to many of the verbal endings 
in the Sanskrit root es, he found a key to many others in the other 
root of the verb ' to be,' Sanskrit bhu. He finds it in the Latin 
imperfect da-bam, as well as in the future da-bo, the relation between 
which is the same as that between er-am and er-o. " Bo, bis, bit 
has a striking similarity with the Anglo-Saxon beo, bys, byth, the 
future tense of the verb substantive, a similarity which cannot be 
considered as merely accidental." [Here neither the form nor the 
function of the Anglo-Saxon is stated quite correctly.] But 



the ending in Latin ama-vi is also referred to the same root ; for 
the change of the b into v we are referred to Italian amava, from 
Lat. amabam ; thus also fui is for fuvi and potui is for pot-vi : 
" languages manifest a constant effort to combine heterogeneous 
materials in such a manner as to offer to the ear or eye one 
perfect whole, like a statue executed by a skilful artist, that 
wears the appearance of a figure hewn out of one piece of 
marble " (AC 60). 

The following may be taken as a fair specimen of the method 
followed in these first attempts to account for the origin of flexional 
forms : " The Latin passive forms amat-ur, amant-ur, would, in 
some measure, conform to this mode of joining the verb substantive, 
if the r was also the result of a permutation of an original s ; and 
this appears not quite incredible, if we compare the second person 
ama-ris with the third amat-ur. Either in one or the other there 
must be a transposition of letters, to which the Latin language 
is particularly addicted. If ama-ris, which might have been 
produced from ama-sis, has preserved the original order of letters, 
then ama-tur must be the transposition of ama-rut or ama-sut, 
and ama-ntur that of ama-runt or ama-sunt. If this be the case, 
the origin of the Latin passive can be accounted for, and although 
differing from that of the Sanskrit, Greek, and Gothic languages, it 
is not produced by the invention of a new grammatical form. 
It becomes clear, also, why many verbs, with a passive form, have 
an active signification ; because there is no reason why the addi- 
tion of the verb substantive should necessarily produce a passive 
sense. There is another way of explaining ama-ris, if it really 
stands for ama-sis ; the s may be the radical consonant of the 
reflex pronoun se. The introduction of this pronoun would be 
particularly adapted to form the middle voice, which expresses j 
the reflexion of the action upon the actor ; but the Greek language I 
exemplifies the facility with which the peculiar signification of 
the middle voice passes into that of the passive." The reasoning 
in the beginning of this passage (the only one contained in C) j 
carries us back to a pre-scientific atmosphere, of which there are] 
few or no traces in Rask's writings ; the latter explanation (added j 
in AC) was preferred by Bopp himself in later works, and was for 
many years accepted as the correct one, until scholars found a 
passive in r in Keltic, where the transition from s to r is not found 
as it is in Latin ; and as the closely corresponding forms in Keltic 
and Italic must obviously be explained in the same way, the hypo- 
thesis of a composition with se was generally abandoned. Bopp's 
partiality for the abstract verb is seen clearly when he explains 
the Icelandic passive in -st from a = es (C 132) ; here Rask and 
Grimm saw the correct and obvious explanation. 


Among the other explanations given first by Bopp must be 
mentioned the Latin second person of the passive voice -mini, as 
in ama-mini, which he takes to be the nominative masculine plural 
of a participle corresponding to Greek -menos and found in a different 
form in Lat. alumnus (AC 51). This explanation is still widely 
accepted, though not by everybody. 

With regard to the preterit of what Grimm was later to term 
the ' weak ' verbs, Bopp vacillates between different explanations. 
In C 118 he thinks the t or d is identical with the ending of the 
participle, in which the case endings were omitted and supplanted 
by personal endings ; the syllable ed after d [in Gothic sok-id-edum ; 
' Greek,' p. 119, must be a misprint for Gothic] is nothing but an 
accidental addition. But on p. 151 he sees in sokidedun, sokidedi, 
a connexion of sok with the preterit of the verb Tun, as if the Ger- 
mans were to say suchetaten, suchetdte ; he compares the English use 
of did (did seek), and thinks the verb used is G. tun, Goth, taujan. 
The theory of composition is here restricted to those forms that 
contain two d's, i.e. the plural indicative and the subjunctive. In 
the English edition this twofold explanation is repeated with 
some additions : d or t as in Gothic sok-i-da and oh-ta originates 
from a participle found in Sanskr. tyak-ta, likh-i-ta, Lat. -tus, Gr. 
-tos ; this suffix generally has a passive sense, but in neuter verbs 
an active sense, and therefore would naturally serve to form a 
preterit tense with an active signification. He finds a proof of 
the connexion between this preterit and the participle in the fact 
that only such verbs as have this ending in the participle form 
their preterit by means of a dental, while the others (the ' strong ' 
verbs, as Grimm afterwards termed them) have a participle in an 
and reduplication or a change of vowel in the preterit ; and Bopp 
compares the Greek aorist passive etuphth-en, edoth-en, which he 
conceives may proceed from the participle tuphth-eis, doth-eis 
(AC 37 ff.). This suggestion seems to have been commonly over- 
looked or abandoned, while the other explanation, from dedi as 
in English did seek, which Bopp gives p. 49 for the subjunctive and 
the indicative plural, was accepted by Grimm as the explanation of all 
the forms, even of those containing only one dental ; in later works 
Bopp agreed with Grimm and thus gave up the first part of his 
original explanation. The did explanation had been given already 
by D. von Stade (d. 1718, see Collitz, Das schwache prateritum, 
p. 1) ; Rask (P 270, not mentioned by Collitz) says : " Whence 
this d or t has come is not easy to tell, as it is not found in Latin and 
Greek, but as it is evident from the Icelandic grammar that it is 
closely connected with the past participle and is also found in 
the preterit subjunctive, it seems clear that it must have been an 
old characteristic of the past tense in every mood, but was lost 


in Greek when the above-mentioned participles in tos disappeared 
from the verbs " (cf. Ch. XIX 12). 

With regard to the vowels, Bopp in AC has the interesting 
theory that it is only through a defect in the alphabet that Sanskrit 
appears to have a in so many places ; he believes that the spoken 
language had often " the short Italian e and o," where a was 
written. " If this was the case, we can give a reason why, in words 
common to the Sanskrit and Greek, the Indian akdra [that is, 
short a] so often corresponds to e and o, as, for instance, asti, he 
is, cart ', patis, husband, 7700-1? ; ambaras, sky, o/tjS/ao?, rani, 
etc." Later, unfortunately, Bopp came under the influence of 
Grimm, who, as we saw, on speculative grounds admitted in the 
primitive language only the three vowels o, i, u, and Bopp and 
his followers went on believing that the Sanskrit a represented the 
original state of language, until the discovery of the ' palatal law ' 
(about 1880) showed (what Bopp's occasional remark might other- 
wise easily have led up to, if he had not himself discarded it) that 
the Greek tripartition into a, e, o represented really a more original 
state of things. 

n. 7. Bopp continued. 

In a chapter on the roots in AC (not found in C), Bopp contrasts 
the structure of Semitic roots and of our own ; in Semitic languages 
roots must consist of three letters, neither more nor less, and thus 
generally contain two syllables, while in Sanskrit, Greek, etc., 
the character of the root " is not to be determined by the number 
of letters, but by that of the syllables, of which they contain only 
one " ; thus a root like *, ' to go,' would be unthinkable in Arabic. 
The consequence of this structure of the roots is that the inner 
changes which play such a large part in expressing grammatical 
modifications in Semitic languages must be much more restricted 
in our family of languages. These changes were what F. Schlegel 
termed flexions and what Bopp himself, two years before (C 7), 
had named " the truly organic way " of expressing relation and 
mentioned as a wonderful flexibility found in an extraordinary 
degree in Sanskrit, by the side of which composition with the 
verb ' to be ' is found only occasionally. Now, however, in 1820, 
Bopp repudiates Schlegel's and his own previous assumption that 
' flexion ' was characteristic of Sanskrit in contradistinction to 
other languages in which grammatical modifications were expressed 
by the addition of suffixes. On the contrary, while holding that 
both methods are employed in all languages, Chinese perhaps alone 
excepted, he now thinks that it is the suffix method which is preva- 
lent in Sanskrit, and that " the only real inflexions . . . possible 


in a language, whose elements are monosyllables, are the change 
of their vowels and the repetition of their radical consonants, 
otherwise called reduplication." It will be seen that, Bopp here 
avoids both the onesidedness found in Schlegel's division of 
languages and the other onesidedness which we shall encounter 
in later theories, according to which all grammatical elements are 
originally independent subordinate roots added to the main root. 

In his Vocalismus (1827, reprinted 1836) Bopp opposes Grimm's 
theory that the changes for which Grimm had introduced the term 
ablaut were due to psychological causes ; in other words, possessed 
an inner meaning from the very outset. Bopp inclined to a 
mechanical explanation * and thought them dependent on the 
weight of the endings, as shown by the contrast between Sanskr. 
veda, Goth, vait, Gr. oida and the plural, respectively vidima, vitum, 
id men. In this instance Bopp is in closer a^eement than Grimm 
with the majority of younger scholars, who see in apophony 
(ablaut) an originally non-significant change brought about 
mechanically by phonetic conditions, though they do not find 
these in the ' weight ' of the ending, but in the primeval accent : 
the accentuation of Sanskrit was not known to Bopp when he 
wrote his essay. 

The personal endings of the verbs had already been identified 
with the corresponding pronouns by Scheidius (1790) and Rask 
(P 258) ; Bopp adopts the same view, only reproaching Scheidius 
for thinking exclusively of the nominative forms of the pronouns. 

It thus appears that in his early work Bopp deals with a great 
many general problems, but his treatment is suggestive rather than 
exhaustive or decisive, for there are too many errors in details 
and his whole method is open to serious criticism. A modern 
reader is astonished to see the facility with which violent changes 
of sounds, omissions and transpositions of consonants, etc., are 
gratuitously accepted. Bopp never reflected as deeply as Rask 
did on what constitutes linguistic kinship, hence in C he accepts 
the common belief that Persian was related more closely to German 
than to Sanskrit, and in later life he tried to establish a relationship 
between the Malayo-Polynesian and the Indo-European languages. 
But in spite of all this it must be recognized that in his long laborious 
life he accomplished an enormous amount of highly meritorious 
work, not only in Sanskrit philology, but also in comparative 
grammar, in which he gradually freed himself of his worst methodi- 
cal errors. He was constantly widening his range of vision, taking 
intoconsideration more and more cognate languages. The ingenious 
way in which he explained the curious Keltic shiftings in initial 

1 Probably under the influence of Humboldt, who wrote to him (Sep. 
tember 1826) : ' Absichtlich grammatisch 1st gewiaa kein vokalwechsel." 


consonants (which had so puzzled Rask as to make him doubt of 
a connexion of these languages with our family, but which Bopp 
showed to be dependent on a lost final sound of the preceding word) 
definitely and irrefutably established the position of those languages. 
Among other things that might be credited to his genius, I shall 
select his explanation of the various declensional classes as deter- 
mined by the final sound of the stem. But it is not part of my 
plan to go into many details ; suffice it to say that Bopp's great 
Vergleichende grammatik served for long years as the best, or really 
the only, exposition of the new science, and vastly contributed not 
only to elucidate obscure points, but also to make comparative 
grammar as popular as it is possible for such a necessarily 
abstruse science to be. 

In Bopp's Vergleichende grammatik (1. 108) he gives his classifi- 
cation of languages in general. He rejects Fr. Schlegel's bipartition, 
but his growing tendency to explain everything in Aryan grammar, 
even the inner changes of Sanskrit roots, by mechanical causes 
makes him modify A. W. Schlegel's tripartition and place our 
family of languages with the second instead of the third class. 
His three classes are therefore as follows : I. Languages without 
roots proper and without the power of composition, and thus with- 
out organism or grammar ; to this class belongs Chinese, in which 
most grammatical relations are only to be recognized by the posi- 
tion of the words. II. Languages with monosyllabic roots, capable 
of composition and acquiring their organism, their grammar, 
nearly exclusively in this way ; the main principle of word forma- 
tion is the connexion of verbal and pronominal roots. To this 
class belong the Indo-European languages, but also all languages 
not comprised under the first or the third class. III. Languages 
with disyllabic roots and three necessary consonants as sole bearers 
of the signification of the word. This class includes only the 
Semitic languages. Grammatical forms are here created not only 
by means of composition, as in the second class, but also by inner 
modification of the roots. 

It will be seen that Bopp here expressly avoids both expressions 
'agglutination' and 'flexion,' the former because it had been used 
of languages contrasted with Aryan, while Bopp wanted to show 
the essential identity of the two classes ; the latter because it had j 
been invested with much obscurity on account of Fr. Schlegel's J 
use of it to signify inner modification only. According to Schlegel, ' 
only such instances as English drink / drank / drunk are pure 
flexion, while German trink-e / trank / ge-trunk-en, and still more 
Greek leip-o / e-lip-on / le-loip-a, besides an element of ' flexion ' j 
contain also affixed elements. It is clear that no language can use 
* flexion ' (in Schlegel's sense) exclusively, and consequently this 


cannot be made a principle on which to erect a classification of 
languages generally. Schlegel's use of the term ' flexion ' seems 
to have been dropped by all subsequent writers, who use it so as 
to include what is actually found in the grammar of such languages 
as Sanskrit and Greek, comprising under it inner and outer modi- 
fications, but of course not requiring both in the same form. 

In view of the later development of our science, it is worthy 
of notice that neither in the brothers Schlegel nor in Bopp do we 
yet meet with the idea that the classes set up are not only a dis- 
tribution of the languages found side by side in the world at this 
time, but also represent so many stages in historical development ; 
indeed, Bopp's definitions are framed so as positively to exclude 
any development from his Class II to Class III, as the character 
of the underlying roots is quite heterogeneous. On the other hand, 
Bopp's tendency to explain Aryan endings from originally inde- 
pendent roots paved the way for the theory of isolation, agglutina- 
tion and flexion as three successive stages of the same language. 

In his first work (C 56) Bopp had already hinted that in the 
earliest period known to us languages had already outlived their 
most perfect state and were in a process of decay ; and in his 
review of Grimm (1827) he repeats this : " We perceive them in 
a condition in which they may indeed be progressive syntactically 
but have, as far as grammar is concerned, lost more or less of 
what belonged to the perfect structure, in which the separate 
members stand in exact relation to each other and in which every- 
thing derived has still a visible and unimpaired connexion with 
its source " (Voc. 2). We shall see kindred ideas in Humboldt 
and Schleicher. 

To sum up : Bopp set about discovering the ultimate origin 
of flexional elements, but instead of that he discovered Compara- 
tive Grammar " a peu pres comme Christophe Colomb a decouvert 
1'Amerique en cherchant la route des Indes," as A. Meillet puts 
it (LI 413). A countryman of Rask may be forgiven for pushing 
the French scholar's brilliant comparison still further : in the 
same way as Norsemen from Iceland had discovered America 
before Columbus, without imagining that they were finding the 
way to India, just so Rasmus Rask through his Icelandic studies 
had discovered Comparative Grammar before Bopp, without 
needing to take the circuitous route through Sanskrit. 

n. 8. Wilhelm von Humboldt. 

This will be the proper place to mention one of the profoundest 
thinkers in the domain of linguistics, Wilhelm von Humboldt 
(1767-1835), who, while playing an important part in the political 


world, found time to study a great many languages and to 
think deeply on many problems connected with philology and 
ethnography. 1 

In numerous works, the most important of which, Ueber die 
Kawisprache auf der Insd Jaiva, with the famous introduction 
" Ueber die Verschiedenheit des menschlichen Sprachbaues und 
ihren Einfluss auf die geistige Entwickelung des Menschen- 
geschlechts," was published posthumously in 1836-40, Hum- 
boldt developed his linguistic philosophy, of which it is not 
easy to give a succinct idea, as it is largely couched in a 
most abstruse style ; it is not surprising that his admirer and 
follower, Heymann Steinthal, in a series of books, gave as many 
different interpretations of Humboldt's thoughts, each purporting 
to be more correct than its predecessors. Still, I believe the 
following may be found to be a tolerably fair rendering of some 
of Humboldt's ideas. 

He rightly insists on the importance of seeing in language 
a continued activity. Language is not a substance or a finished 
work, but action (Sie selbst ist kein werk, ergon, sondern eine 
tatigkeit, energeia). Language therefore cannot be defined except 
genetically. It is the ever-repeated labour of the mind to utilize 
articulated sounds to express thoughts. Strictly speaking, this 
is a definition of each separate act of speech ; but truly and essen- 
tially a language must be looked upon as the totality of such acts. 

1 Humboldt's relation to Bopp's general ideas is worth studying; see 
his letters to Bopp, printed as Nachtrag to S. Lefman's Franz Bopp, sein 
leben und seine wissenschaft (Berlin, 1897). He is (p. 5) on the whole of 
Bopp's opinion that flexions have arisen through agglutination of syllables, 
the independent meaning of which was lost ; still, he is not certain that all 
flexion can be explained in that way, and especially doubts it in the case 
of * umlaut,' under which term he here certainly includes ' ablaut,' as 
seen by his reference (p. 12) to Greek future staid from stello ; he adds that 
" some flexions are at the same time so significant and so widely spread 
in languages that I should be inclined to call them original ; for example, 
our of the dative and m of the same case, both of which by their sharper 
sound seem intended to call attention to the peculiar nature of this case, 
which does not, like the other cases, denote a simple, but a double relation " 
(repeated p. 10). Humboldt doubts Bopp's identification of the temporal 
augment with the a privativum. He says (p. 14) that cases often originate 
from prepositions, as in American languages and in Basque, and that he has 
always explained our genitive, as in G. manne-s, as a remnant of aus. This 
is evidently wrong, as the of aua is a special High German development 
from t, while the a of the genitive is also found in languages which do not \ 
share in this development of t. But the remark is interesting because, apart 
from the historical proof to the contrary which we happen to possess in this 
case, the derivation is no whit worse than many of the explanations resorted 
to by adherents of the agglutinative theory. But Humboldt goes on to say 
that in Greek and Latin he is not prepared to maintain that one single 
case is to be explained in this way. Humboldt probably had some influence 
on Bopp's view of the weak preterit, for he is skeptical with regard to the did 
explanation and inclines to connect the ending with the participle in (, 


For the words and rules, which according to our ordinary notions 
make up a language, exist really only in the act of connected speech. 
The breaking up of language into words and rules is nothing but 
a dead product of our bungling scientific analysis (Versch 41). 
Nothing in language is static, everything is dynamic. Language 
has nowhere any abiding place, not even in writing ; its dead part 
must continually be re-created in the mind ; in order to exist 
it must be spoken or understood, and so pass in its entirety into 
the subject (ib. 63). 

Humboldt speaks continually of languages as more perfect or 
less perfect. Yet '' no language should be condemned or depre- 
ciated, not even that of the most savage tribe, for each language 
is a picture of the original aptitude for language " (Versch 304). 
In another place he speaks about special excellencies even of lan- 
guages that cannot in themselves be recognized as superlatively 
good instruments of thought. Undoubtedly Chinese of the old 
style carries with it an impressive dignity through the immediate 
succession of nothing but momentous notions ; it acquires a simple 
greatness because it throws away all unnecessary accessory elements 
and thus, as it were, takes flight to pure thinking, Malay is rightly 
praised for its ease and the great simplicity of its constructions. 
The Semitic languages retain an admirable art in the nice discrimina- 
tion of sense assigned to many shades of vowels. Basque possesses 
a particular vigour, dependent on the briefness and boldness of 
expression imparted by the structure of its words and by their 
combination. Delaware and other American languages express 
in one word a number of ideas for which we should require many 
words. The human mind is always capable of producing something 
admirable, however one-sided it may be ; such special points decide 
nothing with regard to the rank of languages (Versch 189 f.). We 
have here, as indeed continually in Humboldt, a valuation of lan- 
guages with many brilliant remarks, but on the whole we miss the 
concrete details abounding in Jenisch's work. Humboldt, as it 
were, lifts us to a higher plane, where the air may be purer, but 
where it is also thinner and not seldom cloudier as well. 

According to Humboldt, each separate language, even the most 
despised dialect, should be looked upon as an organic whole, different 
from all the rest and expressing the individuality of the people 
speaking it ; it is characteristic of one nation's psyche, and indi- 
cates the peculiar way in which that nation attempts to realize 
the ideal of speech. As a language is thus symbolic of the national 
character of those who speak it, very much in each language had 
its origin in a symbolic representation of the notion it stands for ; 
there is a natural nexus between certain sounds and certain general 
ideas, and consequently we often find similar sounds used for the 


same, or nearly the same, idea in languages not otherwise related 
to one another. 

Humboldt is opposed to the idea of ' general ' or ' universal ' 
grammar as understood in his time ; instead of this purely deduc- 
tive grammar he would found an inductive general grammar, 
based upon the comparison of the different ways in which the same 
grammatical notion was actually expressed in a variety of lan- 
guages. He set the example in his paper on the Dual. His own 
studies covered a variety of languages ; but his works do not give 
us many actual concrete facts from the languages he had studied ; 
he was more interested in abstract reasonings on language in general 
than in details. 

In an important paper, Ueber das Entstehen der grammatischen 
Formen und ihren Einfluss auf die Ideenentwickelung (1822), he says 
that language at first denotes only objects, leaving it to the hearer 
to understand or guess at (hinzudenken) their connexion. By 
and by the word-order becomes fixed, and some words lose their 
independent use and sound, so that in the second stage we see 
grammatical relations denoted through word-order and through 
words vacillating between material and formal significations. 
Gradually these become affixes, but the connexion is not yet firm, 
the joints are still visible, the result being an aggregate, not yet a 
unit. Thus in the third stage we have something analogous to 
form, but not real form. This is achieved in the fourth stage, 
where the word is one, only modified in its grammatical relations 
through the flexional sound ; each word belongs to one definite 
part of speech, and form-words have no longer any disturbing 
material signification, but are pure expressions of relation. Such 
words as Lat. amavit and Greek epoie-sas are truly grammatical 
forms in contradistinction to such combinations of words and sylla- 
bles as are found in cruder languages, because we have here a fusion 
into one whole, which causes the signification of the parts to be 
forgotten and joins them firmly under one accent. Though Hum- 
boldt thus thinks flexion developed out of agglutination, he dis- 
tinctly repudiates the idea of a gradual development and rather 
inclines to something like a sudden crystallization (see especially 
Sfcemthal's ed., p. 585). 

Humboldt's position with regard to the classification of lan- 
guages is interesting. In his works we continually meet with the 
terms agglutination * and flexion by the side of a new term, ' in- 
corporation.' This he finds in full bloom in many American lan- 
guages, such as Mexican, where the object may be inserted into 
the verbal form between the element indicating person and the 

1 Humboldt seems to be the inventor of this term (1821; see Streitberg, 
JF 35. 191). 


iroot. Now, Huinboldt says that besides Chinese, which has no 
i grammatical form, there are three possible forms of languages, 
[the flexional, the agglutinative and the incorporating, but he adds 
ithat all languages contain one or more of these forms (Versch 301). 
He tends to deny the existence of any exclusively agglutinative 
lor exclusively flexional language, as the two principles are gener- 
ally commingled (132). Flexion is the only method that gives 
to the word the true inner firmness and at the same time distributes 
the parts of the sentence according to the necessary interlacing 
of thoughts, and thus undoubtedly represents the pure principle 
of linguistic structure. Now, the question is, what language carries 
out this method in the most consistent way ? True perfection 
may not be found in any one language : in the Semitic languages 
?we find flexion in its most genuine shape, united with the most 
irefined symbolism, only it is not pursued consistently in all parts 
of the language, but restricted by more or less accidental laws. 
On the other hand, in the Sanskritic languages the compact unity 
of every word saves flexion from any suspicion of agglutination ; 
it pervades all parts of the language and rules it in the highest 
freedom (Versch 188). Compared with incorporation and with 
the method of loose juxtaposition without any real word-unity, 
flexion appears as an intuitive principle born of true linguistic 
genius (ib.). Between Sanskrit and Chinese, as the two opposed 
poles of linguistic structure, each of them perfect in the consistent 
following one principle, we may place all the remaining languages 
(ib. 326). But the languages called agglutinative have nothing 
in common except just the negative trait that they are neither 
isolating nor flexional. The structural diversities of human lan- 
guages are so great that they make one despair of a fully com- 
'prehensive classification (ib. 330). 

According to Humboldt, language is in continued development 
under the influence of the changing mental power of its speakers. 
In this development there are naturally two definite periods, one 
in which the creative instinct of speech is still growing and active, 
and another in which a seeming stagnation begins and then an 
appreciable decline of that creative instinct. Still, the period of 
decline may initiate new principles of life and new successful 
changes in a language (Versch 184). In the form-creating period 
nations are occupied more with the language than with its purpose, 
i.e. with what it is meant to signify. They struggle to express 
thought, and this craving in connexion with the inspiring feeling 
of success produces and sustains the creative power of language 
(ib. 191). In the second period we witness a wearing-off of the 
flexional forms. This is found less in languages reputed crude or 
rough than in refined ones. Language is exposed to the most 


violent changes when the human mind is most active, for then 
it considers too careful an observation of the modifications of 
sound as superfluous. To this may be added a want of perception 
of the poetic charm inherent in the sound. Thus it is the transi- 
tion from a more sensuous to a more intellectual mood that works 
changes in a language. In other cases less noble causes are at 
work. Rougher organs and less sensitive ears are productive 
of indifference to the principle of harmony, and finally a prevalent 
practical trend may bring about abbreviations and omissions of 
all kinds in its contempt for everything that is not strictly neces- 
sary for the purpose of being understood. While in the first period 
the elements still recall their origin to man's consciousness, there 
is an aesthetic pleasure in developing the instrument of mental 
activity ; but in the second period language serves only the prac- 
tical needs of life. In this way such a language as English may 
reduce its forms so as to resemble the structure of Chinese ; but 
there will always remain traces of the old flexions ; and English 
is no more incapable of high excellences than German (Versch 
282-6). What these are Humboldt, however, does not tell us. 

n. 9. Grimm Once More. 

Humboldt here foreshadowed and probably influenced ideas 
to which Jacob Grimm gave expression in two essays written in 
his old age and which it will be necessary here to touch upon. 
In the essay on the pedantry of the German language (Ueber das 
pedantische in der deutschen sprache, 1847), Grimm says that he 
has so often praised his mother-tongue that he has acquired the 
right once in a while to blame it. If pedantry had not existed 
already, Germans would have invented it ; it is the shadowy side 
of one of their virtues, painstaking accuracy and loyalty. Grimm's 
essay is an attempt at estimating a language, but on the whole it 
is less comprehensive and less deep than that of Jenisch. Grimm 
finds fault with such things as the ceremoniousness with which 
princes are spoken to and spoken of (Durchlauehtigste.r, allerhochst- ; 
derselbe), and the use of the pronoun Sie in the third person plural ! 
in addressing a single person ; he speaks of the clumsiness of the 
auxiliaries for the passive, the past and the future, and of the' 
word-order which makes the Frenchman cry impatiently " J 'attends ' 
le verbe." He blames the use of capitals for substantives and other ' 
peculiarities of German spelling, but gives no general statement 
of the principles on which the comparative valuation of different 
languages should be based, though in many passages we see that 
he places the old stages of the language very much higher than 
the language of his own day. 


The essay on the origin of language (1851) is much more 
mportant, and may be said to contain the mature expression of 
ill Grimm's thoughts on the philosophy of language. Unfor- 
tunately, much of it is couched in that high-flown poetical style 
which may be partly a consequence of Grimm's having approached 
:he exact study of language through the less exact studies of popular 
Doetry and folklore ; this style is not conducive to clear ideas, and 
therefore renders the task of the reporter very difficult indeed, 
jrimm at some length argues against the possibility of language 
laving been either created by God when he created man or having 
Deen revealed by God to man after his creation. The very imper- 
iections and changeability of language speak against its divine 
Diigin. Language as gradually developed must be the work of 
oaan himself, and therein is different from the immutable cries 
md songs of the lower creation. Nature and natural instinct 
aave no history, but mankind has. Man and woman were created 
is grown-up and marriageable beings, and there must have been 
created at once more than one couple, for if there had been only 
3ne couple, there would have been the possibility that the one 
nother had borne only sons or only daughters, further procreation 
Deing thus rendered impossible (!), not to mention the moral objec- 
;ions to marriages between brother and sister. How these once 
created beings, human in every respect except in language, were 
ible to begin talking and to find themselves understood, Grimm 
loes not really tell us ; he uses such expressions as ' inventors ' 
)f words, but apart from the symbolical value of some sounds, 
mch as I and r, he thinks that the connexion of word and sense 
yas quite arbitrary. On the other hand, he can tell us a great 
leal about the first stage of human speech : it contained only the 
ihree vowels a, ', u, and only few consonant groups ; every word 
yas a monosyllable, and abstract notions were at first absent, 
fhe existence in all (?) old languages of masculine and feminine 
lexions must be due to the influence of women on the formation 
jf language. Through the distinction of genders Grimm says that 
egularity and clearness were suddenly brought about in every- 
hing concerning the noun as by a most happy stroke of fortune. 
2ndings to indicate person, number, tense and mood originated 
n added pronouns and auxiliary words, which at first were loosely 
oined to the root, but later coalesced with it. Besides, redupli- 
cation was used to indicate the past ; and after the absorption of 
-he reduplicational syllable the same effect was obtained in German 
hrough apophony. All nouns presuppose verbs, whose material 
ense was applied to the designation of things, as when G. hahn 
' cock ') was thus called from an extinct verb hanan, corresponding 
o Lat. canere, 'to sing.' 


In what Grimm says about the development of language it is 
easy to trace the influence of Humboldt's ideas, though they are 
worked out with great originality. He discerns three stages, 
the last two alone being accessible to us through historical docu- 
ments. In the first period we have the creation and growing of 
roots and words, in the second the flourishing of a perfect flexion, 
and in the third a tendency to thoughts, which leads to the giving 
up of flexion as not yet (?) satisfactory. They may be compared 
to leaf, blossom and fruit, " the beauty of human speech did not 
bloom in its beginning, but in its middle period ; its ripest fruits 
will not be gathered till some time in the future." He thus sums 
up his theory of the three stages : " Language in its earliest form 
was melodious, but diffuse and straggling ; in its middle form it 
was full of intense poetical vigour ; in our own days it seeks to 
remedy the diminution of beauty by the harmony of the whole, and 
is more effective though it has inferior means." In most places 
Grimm still speaks of the downward course of linguistic develop- 
ment ; all the oldest languages of our family " show a rich, pleasant 
and admirable perfection of form, in which all material and spiritual 
elements have vividly interpenetrated each other," while in the 
later developments of the same languages the inner power and 
subtlety of flexion has generally been given up and destroyed, 
though partly replaced by external means and auxiliary words. 
On the whole, then, the history of language discloses a descent 
from a period of perfection to a less perfect condition. This is 
the point of view that we meet with in nearly all linguists ; but 
there is a new note when Grimm begins vaguely and dimly to see 
that the loss of flexional forms is sometimes compensated by other 
things that may be equally valuable or even more valuable ; and 
he even, without elaborate arguments, contradicts his own mainj 
contention when he says that " human language is retrogressive 
only apparently and in particular points, but looked upon as a 
whole it is progressive, and its intrinsic force is continually in-' 
creasing." He instances the English language, which by sheer! 
making havoc of all old phonetic laws and by the loss of all flexions j 
has acquired a great force and power, such as is found perhaps 1 
in no other human language. Its wonderfully happy structure: 
resulted from the marriage of the two noblest languages of Europe ; 
therefore it was a fit vehicle for the greatest poet of modern times ; 
and may justly claim the right to be called a world's language ; 
like the English people, it seems destined to reign in future ever, 
more than now in all parts of the earth. This enthusiastic panegyri* 
forms a striking contrast to what the next great German scholar witli 
whom we have to deal, Schleicher, says about the same language 
which to him shows only " how rapidly the language of a natioi 
important both in history and literature can decline" (II. 231). 


1. After Bopp and Grimm. 2. K. M. Rapp. 3. J. H. Bredsdorff. 
4. August Schleicher. 5. Classification of Languages. 6. Recon- 
struction. 7. Curtius, Madvig and Specialists. 8. Max Muller and 

HI. 1. After Bopp and Grimm. 

BOPP and Grimm exercised an enormous influence on linguistic 
thought and linguistic, research in Germany and other countries. 
Long even before their death we see a host of successors following 
n the main the lines laid down in their work, and thus directly 
ind indirectly they determined the development of this science 
'or a long time. Through their efforts so much new light had 
oeen shed on a number of linguistic phenomena that these took 
i quite different aspect from that which they had presented to the 
previous generation ; most of what had been written about etymo- 
logy and kindred subjects in the eighteenth century seemed to the 
lew school utterly antiquated, mere fanciful vagaries of incom- 
petent blunderers, whereas now scholars had found firm ground 
jn which to raise a magnificent structure of solid science. This 
feeling was especially due to the undoubted recognition of one 
great family of languages to which the vast majority of European 
languages, as well as some of the most important Asiatic languages; 
belonged : here we had one firmly established fact of the greatest 
magnitude, which at once put an end to all the earlier whimsical 
attempts to connect Latin and Greek words with Hebrew roots. 
As for the name of that family of languages, Rask hesitated between 
different names, ' European,' " Sarmatic ' and finally ' Japhetic ' 
(as a counterpart of the Semitic and the Hamitic languages) ; 
Bopp at first had no comprehensive name, and on the title-page 
of his Vergl. grammatik contents himself with enumerating the 
chief languages described, but in the work itself he says that he 
prefers the name ' Indo-European,' which has also found wide 
acceptance, though more in France, England and Skandinavia 
than in Germany. Humboldt for a long while said ' Sanskritic,' 
but later he adopted ' Indo-Germanic,' and this has been the gener- 
ally recognized name used in Germany, in spite of Bopp's protest- 
who said that ' Indo-klassisch ' would be more to the point ; ' Indo, 


Keltic ' has also been proposed as designating the family through 
its two extreme members to the East and West. But all these 
compound names are clumsy without being completely pertinent, 
and it seems therefore much better to use the short and con- 
venient term ' the Aryan languages ' : Aryan being the oldest 
name by which any members of the family designated themselves 
(in India and Persia). 1 

' Thanks to the labours of Bopp and Grimm and their co-workers 
and followers, we see also a change in the status of the study of 
languages. Formerly this was chiefly a handmaiden to philology 
but as this word is often in English used in a sense unknown 
to other languages and really objectionable, namely as a synonym 
of (comparative) study of languages, it will be necessary first to 
say a few words about the terminology of our science. In this 
book I shall use the word ' philology ' in its continental sense, which 
is often rendered in English by the vague word 'scholarship,' 
meaning thereby the study of the specific culture of one nation ; 
thus we speak of Latin philology, Greek philology, Icelandic 
philology, etc. The word ' linguist,' on the other hand, is not infre- 
quently used in the sense of one who has merely a practical know- 
ledge of some foreign language ; but I think I am in accordance 
with a growing number of scholars in England and America if I 
call such a man a * practical linguist ' and apply the word ' linguist ' 
by itself to the scientific student of language (or of languages) ; 
' linguistics ' then becomes a shorter and more convenient name 
for what is also called the science of language (or of languages). 

Now that the reader understands the sense in which I take 
these two terms, I may go on to say that the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century witnessed a growing differentiation between philo- 
logy and linguistics in consequence of the new method introduced 
by comparative and by historical grammar ; it was nothing less j 
than a completely new way of looking at the facts of language | 
and trying to trace their origin. While to the philologist the 
Greek or Latin language, etc., was only a means to an end, to the i 
linguist it was an end in itself. The former saw in it a valuable, j 
and in fact an indispensable, means of gaining a first-hand know- ! 
ledge of the literature which was his chief concern, but the linguist ' 
cared not for the literature as such, but studied languages for their j 
own sake, and might even turn to languages destitute of literaturej 
because they were able to throw some light on the life of language' 
in general or on forms in related languages. The philologist as 
such would not think of studying the Gothic of Wulfila, as a know- 1 

1 It has been objected to the use of Aryan in this wide sense that tht 
name is also used in the restricted sense of Indian + Iranic ; but no separaU 
name i needed for that small group other thaii Indo-Iranic. 


[ledge of that language gives access only to a translation of parts 
of the Bible, the ideas of which can be studied much better else- 
where ; but to the linguist Gothic was extremely valuable. The 
differentiation, of course, is not an absolute one ; besides being 
linguists in the new sense, Rask was an Icelandic philologist, 
Bopp a Sanskrit philologist, and Grimm a German philologist ; 
but the tendency towards the emancipation of linguistics was very 
strong in them, and some of their pupils were pure linguists and 
did no work in philology. 

In breaking away from philology and claiming for linguistics 
the rank of a new and independent science, the partisans of the 
new doctrine were apt to think that riot only had they discovered 
a new method, but that the object of their study was different 
from that of the philologists, even when they were both concerned 
with language. While the philologist looked upon language as 
part of the culture of some nation, the linguist looked upon it as 
a natural object ; and when in the beginning of the nineteenth cen- 
tury philosophers began to divide all sciences into the two sharply 
separated classes of mental and natural sciences (geistes- und 
naturwissenschaften), linguists would often reckon their science 
among the latter. There was in this a certain amount of pride 
or boastfulness, for on account of the rapid rise and splendid 
achievements of the natural sciences at that time, it began to be a 
matter of common belief that they were superior to, and were pos- 
sessed of a more scientific method than, the other class the same 
view that finds an expression in the ordinary English usage, 
according to which ' science ' means natural science and the 
other domains of human knowledge are termed the ' arts ' or the 
' humanities.' 

We see the new point of view in occasional utterances of the 
pioneers of linguistic science. Rask expressly says that " Language 
is a natural object and its study resembles natural history " 
2. 502) ; but when he repeats the same sentence (in Betskrivn- 
ingslcere, 8) it appears that he is thinking of language as opposed 
to the more artificial writing, and the contrast is not between 
mental and natural science, but between art and nature, between 
what can and what cannot be consciously modified by man it is 
really a different question. 

Bopp, in his review of Grimm (1827, reprinted Vocalismus, 
1836, p. 1), says : " Languages are to be considered organic natural 
bodies, which are formed according to fixed laws, develop as pos- 
sessing an inner principle of life, and gradually die out because 
they do not understand themselves any longer [!], and therefore 
cast off or mutilate their members or forms, which were at first 
significant, but gradually have become more of an extrinsic mass. 



... It is not possible to determine how long languages may pre- 
serve their full vigour of life and of procreation," etc. This is 
highly figurative language which should not be taken at its face 
value ; but expressions like these, and the constant use of such 
words as ' organic ' and ' inorganic ' in speaking of formations in 
languages, and ' organism ' of the whole language, would tend to 
widen the gulf between the philological and the linguistic point of 
view. Bopp himself never consistently followed the naturalistic 
way of looking at language, but in 4 of this chapter we shall see 
that Schleicher was not afraid of going to extremes and building 
up a consistent natural science of language. 

The cleavage between philology and linguistics did not take 
place without arousing warm feeling. Classical scholars disliked 
the intrusion of Sanskrit everywhere ; they did not know that 
language and did not see the use of it. They resented the way 
in which the new science wanted to reconstruct Latin and Greek 
grammar and to substitute new explanations for those which 
had always been accepted. Those Sanskritists chatted of guna 
and vrddhi and other barbaric terms, and even ventured to talk 
of a locative case in Latin, as if the number of cases had not been 
settled once for all long ago ! 1 

Classicists were no doubt perfectly right when they reproached 
comparativists for their neglect of syntax, which to them was the 
most important part of grammar ; they were also in some measure 
right when they maintained that linguists to a great extent con- 
tented themselves with a superficial knowledge of the languages 
compared, which they studied more in grammars and glossaries 
than in living texts, and sometimes they would even exult when 
they found proof of this in solecisms in Bopp's Latin translations 
from Sanskrit, and even on the title-page of Gflossarium Sanscritum 
a Franzisco Bopp. Classical scholars also looked askance at the 
growing interest in the changes of sounds, or, as it was then usual 
to say, of letters. But when they were apt here to quote the scrip- 
tural phrase about the letter that killeth, while the spirit giveth 
life, they overlooked the fact that Nature has r( nd Ted it impos- 
sible for anyone to penetrate to the mind of anyone else except 
through its outer manifestations, and that it is consequently 
impossible to get at the spirit of a language except through ite j 
sounds : phonology must therefore form the necessary basis and j 
prerequisite of the scientific study of any group of languages. 
Still, it cannot be denied that sometimes comparative phonology^ 
was treated in such a mechanical way as partly to dehumanize the 
study of language. 

1 In Lefmann's book on Bopp, pp. 292 and 299, there are some interesting 
quotations on this point. 


When we look back at this period in the history of linguistics, 
there are certain tendencies and characteristics that cannot fail 
to catch our attention. First we must mention the prominence 
given to Sanskrit, which was thought to be the unavoidable re- 
quirement of every comparative linguist. In erplaining anything 
in any of the cognate languages the etymologist always turned 
first to Sanskrit words and Sanskrit forms. This standpoint is 
found even much later, for instance in Max Muller's Inaugural 
Address (1868, Ch. 19) : " Sanskrit certainly forms the only sound 
foundation of Comparative Philology, and it will always remain 
the only safe guide through all its intricacies. A comparative 
philologist without a knowledge of Sanskrit is like an astronomer 
without a knowledge of mathematics." A linguist of a later 
generation may be excused for agreeing rather with Ellis, who says 
(Transact. Philol. Soc., 1873-4, 21): "Almost in our own days 
came the discovery of Sanskrit, and philology proper began but, 
alas ! at the wrong end. Now, here I run great danger of being 
misunderstood. Although for a scientific sifting of the nature 
of language I presume to think that beginning at Sanskrit was 
unfortunate, yet I freely admit that, had that language not been 
brought into Europe . . . our knowledge of language would have 
been in a poor condition indeed. . . . We are under the greatest 
obligations to those distinguished men who have undertaken to 
unravel its secrets and to show its connexion with the languages 
of Europe. Yet I must repeat that for the pure science of 
language, to begin with Sanskrit was as much beginning at the 
wrong end as it would have been to commence zoology with 
palaeontology the relations of life with the bones of the dead." 

Next, Bopp and his nearest successors were chiefly occupied 
with finding likenesses between the languages treated and dis- 
covering things that united them. This was quite natural in the 
first stage of the new science, but sometimes led to one-sidedness, 
the characteristic individuality of each language being lost sight 
of, while forms from many countries and many times were mixed 
up in a hotch-potch. Rask, on account of his whole mental equip- 
ment, was less liable to this danger than most of his contemporaries ; 
but Pott was evidently right when he warned his fellow-students 
that their comparative linguistics should be supplemented by 
separative linguistics (Zdhlmethode, 229), as it has been to a great 
extent in recent years. 

Still another feature of the linguistic science of these days 
is the almost exclusive occupation of the student with dead 
languages. It was quite natural that the earliest comparativists 
should first give their attention to the oldest stages of the languages 
compared, since these alone enabled them to prove the essential 




kinship between the different members of the great Aryan famih 
In Grimm's grammar nearly all the space is taken up with Got! 
Old High German, Old Norse, etc., and comparatively little is said 
about recent developments of the same languages. In Bopp's 
comparative grammar classical Greek and Latin are, of course, 
treated carefully, but Modern Greek and the Romanic languages 
are not mentioned (thus also in Schleicher's Compendium and in 
Brugmann's Grammar], such later developments being left to 
specialists who were more or less considered to be outside the sphere 
of Comparative Linguistics and even of the science of language 
in general, though it would have been a much more correct view 
to include them in both, and though much more could really be 
learnt of the life of language from these studies than from com- 
parisons made in the spirit of Bopp. 

The earlier stages of different languages, which were compared 
by linguists, were, of course, accessible only through the medium 
of writing ; we have seen that the early linguists spoke constantly 
of letters and not of sounds. But this vitiated their whole outlook 
on languages. These were scarcely ever studied at first-hand, 
and neither in Bopp nor in Grimm nor in Pott or Benfey do we find 
such first-hand observations of living spoken languages as play a 
great role in the writings of Rask and impart an atmosphere of 
soundness to his whole manner of looking at languages. If 
languages were called natural objects, they were not yet studied 
as such or by truly naturalistic methods. 

When living dialects were studied, the interest constantly 
centred round the archaic traits in them ; every survival of an old 
form, every trace of old sounds that had been dropped in the 
standard speech, was greeted with enthusiasm, and the significance 
of these old characteristics greatly exaggerated, the general im- 
pression being that popular dialects were always much more con- 
servative than the speech of educated people. It was reserved 
for a much later time to prove that this view is completely 
erroneous, and that popular dialects, in spite of many archaic 
details, are on the whole further developed than the various 
standard languages with their stronger tradition and literary 

HI. 2. K. M. Rapp. 

It was from this archaeological point of view only that Grimm 
encouraged the study of dialects, but he expressly advised students 
not to carry the research too far in the direction of discriminating i 
minutiae of sounds, because these had little bearing on the history 
of language as he understood it. In this connexion we may , 

2] K. M. RAPP 69 

mention an episode in the history of early linguistics that is sympto- 
matic. K. M. Rapp brought out his Versuch einer Physiologic 
der Sprache nebst historischer Entwickclung der abendldndischen 
Idiome nach physiolotjischen Grundsalzen in four volumes (1836, 
1839, 1840, 1841). A phj^siological examination into the nature 
and classification of speech sounds was to serve only as the basis 
of the historical part, the grandiose plan of which was to find out 
how Greek, Latin and Gothic sounded, and then to pursue the 
destinies of these sound systems through the Middle Ages (Byzan- 
tine Greek, Old Provencal, Old French, Old Xorse, Anglo-Saxon, Old 
High German) to the present time (Modern Greek, Italian, Spanish, 
etc., down to Low and High German, with different dialects). 
To carry out this plan Rapp was equipped with no small knowledge 
of the earlier stages of these languages and a not contemptible 
first-hand observation of living languages. He relates how from 
his childhood he had a " morbidly sharpened ear for all acoustic 
impressions " ; he had early observed the difference between 
dialectal and educated speech and taken an interest in foreign 
languages, such as French, Italian and English. He visited Den- 
mark, and there made the acquaintance of and became the pupil 
of Rask ; he often speaks of him and his works in terms of the 
greatest admiration. After his return he took up the study of 
Jacob Grimm ; but though he speaks always very warmly about 
the other parts of Grimm's work, Grimm's phonology disappointed 
him. " Grimm's theory of letters I devoured with a ravenous 
appetite for all the new things I had to learn from it, but also with 
heartburning on account of the equally numerous things that 
warred against the whole of my previous research with regard to 
the nature of speech sounds ; fascinated though I was by what 
I read, it thus made me incredibly miserable." He set to his 
great task with enthusiasm, led by the conviction that " the his- 
torical material gives here only one side of the truth, and that the 
living language in all its branches that have never been committed 
to writing forms the other and equally important side which is 
still far from being satisfactorily investigated." It is easy to 
understand that Rapp came into conflict with Grimm's Buch- 
stabenlehre, that had been based exclusively on written forms, 
and Rapp was not afraid of expressing his unorthodox views in 
what he himself terms " a violent and arrogating tone." No 
wonder, therefore, that his book fell into disgrace with the leaders 
of linguistics in Germany, who noticed its errors and mistakes, 
which were indeed numerous and conspicuous, rather than the new 
and sane ideas it contained. Rapp's work is extraordinarily little 
known ; in Raumer's Geschichte der germanischen Philologie and 
similar works it is not even mentioned, and when I disinterred it 


from undeserved oblivion in my Fonetik (1897, p. 35 ; cf. Die 
neueren Sprachen, vol. xiii, 1904) it was utterly unknown to the 
German phoneticians of my acquaintance. Yet not only are its 
phonetic observations 1 deserving of praise, but still more its whole 
plan, based as it is on a thorough comprehension of the mutual 
relations of sounds and writing, which led Rapp to use phonetic 
transcription throughout, even in connected specimens both of 
living and dead languages ; that this is really the only way in which 
it is possible to obtain a comprehensive and living understanding 
of the sound-system of any language (as well as to get a clear 
perception of the extent of one's own ignorance of it !) has not 
yet been generally recognized. The science of language would 
have made swifter and steadier progress if Grimm and his suc- 
cessors had been able to assimilate the main thoughts of Rapp. 

3. J. H. Bredsdorff. 

Another (and still earlier) work that was overlooked at the time 
was the little pamphlet Om Aarsagerne til Sprogenes Forandringer 
(1821) by the Dane J. H. Bredsdorff. Bopp and Grimm never 
really asked themselves the fundamental question, How is it that 
language changes : what are the driving forces that lead in course 
of time to such far-reaching differences as those we find between 
Sanskrit and Latin, or between Latin and French ? Now, this is 
exactly the question that Bredsdorff treats in his masterly pamphlet. 
Like Rapp, he was a very good phonetician ; but in the pamphlet 
that concerns us here he speaks not only of phonetic but of other 
linguistic changes as well. These he refers to the following causes, 
which he illustrates with well-chosen examples : (1) Mishearing 
and misunderstanding ; (2) misrecollection ; (3) imperfection of 
organs ; (4) indolence : to this he inclines to refer nine-tenths 
of all those changes in the pronunciation of a language that are 
not due to foreign influences ; (5) tendency towards analogy : here 
he gives instances from the speech of children and explains by 
analogy such phenomena as the extension of s to all genitives, 
etc. ; (6) the desire to be distinct ; (7) the need of expressing 
new ideas. He recognizes that there are changes that cannot be 
brought under any of these explanations, e.g. the Gothonic sound 
shift (cf. above, p. 43 note), and he emphasizes the many ways in 
which foreign nations or foreign languages may influence a 
language. Bredsdorff 's explanations may not always be correct; 

1 For example, the correct appreciation of Scandinavian o sounds and 
especially the recognition of syllables without any vowel, for instance, in 
G. mittel, achmeicheln, E. heaven, little ; this important truth was unnoticed 
by linguists till Hievers in 1870 called attention to it and Brugmann in 1877 
used it in a famous article. 


but what constitutes the deep originality of his little book is the 
way in which linguistic changes are always regarded in terms of 
human activity, chiefly of a psychological character. Here he was 
head and shoulders above his contemporaries ; in fact, most of 
Bredsdorff's ideas, such as the power of analogy, were the same 
that sixty years later had to fight so hard to be recognized by 
the leading linguists of that time. 1 

m. 4. Augnst Schleicher. 

In Rapp, and even more in Bredsdorff, we get a whiff of the 
scientific atmosphere of a much later time ; but most of the linguists 
of the twenties and following decades (among whom A. F. Pott 
deserves to be specially named) moved in essentially the same 
grooves as Bopp and Grimm, and it will not be necessary here to 
deal in detail with their work. 

August Schleicher (1821-68) in many ways marks the cul- 
mination of the first period of Comparative Linguistics, as well 
as the transition to a new period with different aims and, partially 
at any rate, a new method. His intimate knowledge of many 
languages, his great power of combination, his clear-cut and always 
lucid exposition all this made him a natural leader, and made 
his books for many years the standard handbooks of linguistic 
science. Unlike Bopp and Grimm, he was exclusively a linguist, 
or, as he called it himself, ' glottiker,' and never tired of claiming 
for the science of linguistics (' glottik '), as opposed to philology, 
the rank of a separate natural science. Schleicher specialized in 
Slavonic and Lithuanian ; he studied the latter language in its 
own home and took down a great many songs and tales from the 
mouths of the peasants ; he was for some years a professor in the 
University of Prague, and there acquired a conversational know- 
ledge of Czech ; he spoke Russian, too, and thus in contradis- 
tinction to Bopp and Grimm had a first-hand knowledge of more 
than one foreign language ; his interest in living speech is also 
manifested in his specimens of the dialect of his native town, 
Volkstiimliches aus Sonneberg. When he was a child his father 
very severely insisted on the constant and correct use of the edu- 
cated language at home ; but the boy, perhaps all the more on 
account of the paternal prohibition, was deeply attracted to the 

1 A young German linguist, to whom I sent the pamphlet early in 1886, 
wrote to me : '' Wenn man sich den spass machte und das ding ubersetzte 
mit der bemerkung, es sei vor vier jahren erschienen, wer wurde einem 
nicht trauen ? Merkwurdig, dass solche sachen so unbemerkt, ' dem kleinen 
veilchen gleich,' dahinschvrinden konnen." A short time afterwards the 
pamphlet was reprinted with a short preface by Vilh. Thomsen (Copenhagen, 


popular dialect he heard from his playfellows and to the fas- 
cinating folklore of the old townspeople, which he was later to 
take down and put into print. In the preface he says that the 
acquisition of foreign tongues is rendered considerably easier 
through the habit of speaking two dialects from childhood. 

What makes Schleicher particularly important for the purposes 
of this volume is the fact that in a long series of publications he 
put forth not only details of his science, but original and compre- 
hensive views on the fundamental questions of linguistic theory, 
and that these had great influence on the linguistic philosophy of 
the following decades. He was, perhaps, the most consistent as well 
as one of the clearest of linguistic thinkers, and his views therefore 
deserve to be examined in detail and with the greatest care. 

Apart from languages, Schleicher was deeply interested both 
in philosophy and in natural science, especially botany. From 
these he fetched many of the weapons of his armoury, and they 
coloured the whole of his theory of language. In his student days 
at Tubingen he became an enthusiastic adherent of the philosophy 
of Hegel, and not even the Darwinian sympathies and views of 
which he became a champion towards the end of his career made 
him abandon the doctrines of his youth. As for science, he says 
that naturalists make us understand that in science nothing is 
of value except facts established through strictly objective observa- 
tion and the conclusions based on such facts this is a lesson that 
he thinks many of his colleagues would do well to take to heart. 
There can be no doubt that Schleicher in his practice followed a 
much more rigorous and sober method than his predecessors, 
and that his Compendium in that respect stands far above Bopp's 
Grammar. In his general reasonings on the nature of language, 
on the other hand, Schleicher did not always follow the strict 
principles of sober criticism, being, as we shall now see, too 
dependent on Hegelian philosophy, and also on certain dogmatic 
views that he had inherited from previous German linguists, 
from Schlegel downwards. 

The Introductions to Schleicher 's two first volumes are entirely 
Hegelian, though with a characteristic difference, for in the first 
he says that the changes to be seen in the realm of languages are 
decidedly historical and in no way resemble the changes that we 
may observe in nature, for " however manifold these may be, they 
never show anything but a circular course that repeats itself con- 
tinually " (Hegel), while in language, as in everything mental, we 
may see new things that have never existed before. One generation 
of animals or plants is like another ; the skill of animals has no 
history, as human art has ; language is specifically human and 
mental : its development is therefore analogous to history, for in 


[both we see a continual progress to new phases. In Schleicher's 
[second volume, however, this view is expressly rejected in its 
[main part, because Schleicher now wants to emphasize the natural 
i character of language : it is true, he now says, that language 
shows a ' werden ' which may be termed history in the wider 
;ense of this word, but which is found in its purest form in 
lature ; for instance, in the growing of a plant. Language 
belongs to the natural sphere, not to the sphere of free mental 
activity and this must be our starting-point if we would discover 
the method of linguistic science (ii. 21). 

It would, of course, be possible to say that the method of lin- 
guistic science is that of natural science, and yet to maintain that 
the object of linguistics is different from that of natural science, 
but Schleicher more and more tends to identify the two, and when 
ae was attacked for saying, in his pamphlet on the Darwinian theory, 
:hat languages were material things, real natural objects, he wrote 
n defence Ueber die bedeutung der sprache fur die naturgeschichte 
les menschen, which is highly characteristic as the culminating point 
)f the materialistic way of looking at languages. The activity, 
le says, of any organ, e.g. one of the organs of digestion, or the brain 
5r muscles, is dependent on the constitution of that organ. The 
lifferent ways in which different species, nay even different indi- 
/iduals, walk are evidently conditioned by the structure of the 
imbs ; the activity or function of the organ is, as it were, nothing 
Hit an aspect of the organ itself, even if it is not always possible 
DV means of the knife or microscope of the scientist to demonstrate 
;he material cause of the phenomenon. What is true of the manner 
>f walking is true of language as well ; for language is nothing 
)ut the result, perceptible through the ear, of the action of a com- 
plex of material substances in the structure of the brain and of 
he organs of speech, with their nerves, bones, muscles, etc. Anato- 
nists, however, have not yet been able to demonstrate differences 
n the structures of these organs corresponding to differences of 
rationality to discriminate, that is, the organs of a Frenchman 
qud Frenchman) from those of a German (qua German). Accord- 
ngly, as the chemist can only arrive at the elements which com- 
)ose the sun by examining the light which it emits, while the 
ource of that light remains inaccessible to him, so must we be 
'ontent to study the nature of languages, not in their material 
.ntecedents but in their audible manifestations. It makes no 
>;reat difference, however, for "the two things stand to each other 
.s cause and effect, as substance and phenomenon : a philosopher 
i.e. a Hegelian] would say that they are identical." 

Now I, for one, fail to understand how this can be what Schleicher 
>elieves it to be, " a refutation of the objection that language is 


nothing but a consequence of the activity of these organs." The 
sun exists independently of the human observer ; but there could 
be no such thing as language if there was not besides the speaker 
a listener who might become a speaker in his turn. Schleicher 
speaks continually in his pamphlet as if structural differences in 
the brain and organs of speech were the real language, and as if 
it were only for want of an adequate method of examining this 
hidden structure that we had to content ourselves with studying 
language in its outward manifestation as audible speech. But 
this is certainly on the face of it preposterous, and scarcely needs 
any serious refutation. If the proof of the pudding is in the 
eating, the proof of a language must be in the hearing and under- 
standing', but in order to be heard words must first be spoken, 
and in these two activities (that of producing and that of per- 
ceiving sounds) the real essence of language must consist, and 
these two activities are the primary (or why not the exclusive ?) 
object of the science of language. 

Schleicher goes on to meet another objection that may be made 
co his view of the ' substantiality of language,' namely, that drawn 
from the power of learning other languages. Schleicher doubts 
the possibility of learning another language to perfection ; he 
would admit this only in the case of a man who exchanged his 
mother-tongue for another in his earliest youth ; " but then he 
becomes by that very fact a different being from what he was : 
brain and organs of speech develop in another direction." If 
Mr. So-and-So is said to speak and write German, English and 
French equally well, Schleicher first inclines to doubt the fact; 
and then, granting that the same individual may "be at the same 
time a German, a Frenchman and an Englishman," he asks us to j 
remember that all these three languages belong to the same family j 
and may, from a broader point of view, be termed species of the same j 
language ; but he denies the possibility of anyone's being equally 
at home in Chinese and German, or in Arabic and Hottentot, etc., 1 
because these languages are totally different in their innermost i 
essence. (But what of bilingual children in Finland, speaking; 
Swedish and Finnish, or in Greenland, speaking Danish and Eskimo.) 
or in Java, speaking Dutch and Malay ?) Schleicher has to admit 
that our organs are to some extent flexible and capable of acquiring 
activities that they had not at first; but one definite functior! 
is and remains nevertheless the only natural one, and thus "thti 
possibility of a man's acquiring foreign languages more or less 
perfectly is no objection to our seeing the material basis of Ian 1 
guage in the structure of the brain and organs of speech." 

Even if we admit that Schleicher is so far right that in nearhj 
all (or all ?) cases of bilingualism one language comes more naturall; 


l;han the other, he certainly exaggerates the difference, which is 
ilways one of degree ; and at any rate his final conclusion is wrong, 
or we might with the same amount of justice say that a man who 
las first learned to play the piano has acquired the structure of 
i irain and fingers peculiar to a pianist, and that it is then unnatural 
or him also to learn to play the violin, because that would imply 
i different structure of these organs. In all these cases we have to 
lo with a definite proficiency or skill, which can only be obtained 
jy constant practice, though of course one man may be better 
iredisposed by nature for it than another ; but then it is also the 
act that people who speak no foreign language attain to very 
lifferent degrees of proficiency in the use of their mother-tongue. 
It cannot be said too emphatically that we have here a fundamental 
question, and that Schleicher's view can never lead to a true con- 
:eption of what language is, or to a real insight into its changes 
md historical development. 

Schleicher goes on to say that the classification of mankind into 
aces should not be based on the formation of the skull or on the 
;haracter of the hair, or any such external criteria, as they are by 
10 means constant, but rather on language, because this is a 
horoughly constant criterion. This alone would give a perfectly 
latural system, one, for instance, in which all Turks would be 
slassed together, while otherwise the Osmanli Turk belongs to the 
Caucasian ' race and the so-called Tataric Turks to the ' Mon- 
golian ' race ; on the other hand, the Magyar and the Basque 
>re not physically to be distinguished from the Indo-European, 
hough their languages are widely dissimilar. According to 
Jchleicher, therefore, the natural system of languages is also the 
latural system of mankind, for language is closely connected with 
he whole higher life of men, which is therefore taken into con- 
ideration in and with their language. In this book I am not con- 
erned with the ethnographical division of mankind into races, 
nd I therefore must content myself with saying that the very 
xamples adduced by Schleicher seem to me to militate against 
lis theory that a division of mankind based on language is the 
tatural one : are we to reckon the Basque's son, who speaks nothing 
rat French (or Spanish) as belonging to a different race from his 
ather ? And does not Schleicher contradict himself when on 
). 16 he writes that language is " ein vollig constantes merkmal," 
-nd p. 20 that it is " in fortwahrender veranderung begriffen " ? 
o far as I see, Schleicher never expressly says that he thinks that 
he physical structure conditioning the structure of a man's lan- 
;uage is hereditary, though some of his expressions point that way, 
-nd that may be what he means by the expression ' constant.' 
n other places (Darw. 25, Bed. 24) he allows external conditions 


of life to exercise some influence on the character of a language, 
as when languages of neighbouring peoples are similar (Aryans 
and Semites, for example, are the only nations possessing flexional 
languages). On such points, however, he gives only a few hints 
and suggestions. 

HI. 5. Classification o! Languages. 

In the question of the classification of languages Schleicher 
introduces a deductive element from his strong preoccupation with 
Hegelian ideas. Hegel everywhere moves in trilogies ; Schleicher 
therefore must have three classes, and consequently has to tack 
together two of Pott's four classes (agglutinating and incorporating) ; 
then he is able philosophically to deduce the tripartition. For 
language consists in meaning (bedeutung ; matter, contents, root) 
and relation (beziehung ; form), tertium non datur. As it would 
be a sheer impossibility for a language to express form only, we 
obtain three classes : 

I. Here meaning is the only thing indicated by sound ; relation 
is merely suggested by word-position : isolating languages. 

II. Both meaning and relation are expressed by sound, but 
the formal elements are visibly tacked on to the root, which is 
itself invariable : agglutinating languages. 

III. The elements of meaning and of relation are fused together 
or absorbed into a higher unity, the root being susceptible of 
inward modification as well as of affixes to denote form : flexional 

Schleicher employs quasi-mathematical formulas to illustrate 
these three classes : if we denote a root by R, a prefix by p and 
a suffix by s, and finally use a raised x to denote an inner modifica- 
tion, we see that in the isolated languages we have nothing but 
R (a sentence may be represented by RUHR...), a word in the 
second class has the formula R s or p R or p R s, but in the third 
class we may have p R x s (or R? s). 

Now, according to Schleicher the three classes of languages 
are not only found simultaneously in the tongues of our own 
day, but they represent three stages of linguistic development ; 
" to the nebeneinander of the system corresponds the nacheinander 
of history." Beyond the flexional stage no language can attain ; 
the symbolic denotation of relation by flexion is the highest 
accomplishment of language ; speech has here effectually real- 
ized its object, which is to give a faithful phonetic image of 
thought. But before a language can become flexional it must 
have passed through an isolating and an agglutinating period. 
Is this theory borne out by historical facts ? Can we trace back 


any of the existing flexional languages to agglutination and 
isolation ? Schleicher himself answers this question in the 
negative : the earliest Latin was of as good a flexional type as 
are the modern Romanic languages. This would seem a sort 
of contradiction in terms ; but the orthodox Hegelian is ready 
with an answer to any objection ; he has the word of his master 
that History cannot begin till the human spirit becomes " con- 
scious of its own freedom," and this consciousness is only possible 
after the complete development of language. The formation of 
Language and History are accordingly successive stages of human 
activity. Moreover, as history and historiography, i.e. literature, 
come into existence simultaneously, Schleicher is enabled to ex- 
press the same idea in a way that " is only seemingly paradoxical," 
namely, that the development of language is brought to a conclusion 
as soon as literature makes its appearance ; this is a crisis after 
which language remains fixed ; language has now become a means, 
instead of being the aim, of intellectual activity. We never meet 
with any language that is developing or that has become more 
perfect ; in historical times all languages move only downhill ; 
linguistic history means decay of languages as such, subjugated 
as they are through the gradual evolution of the mind to greater 

The reader of the above survey of previous classifications 
will easily see that in the matter itself Schleicher adds very little 
of his own. Even the expressions, which are here given through- 
out in Schleicher's own words, are in some cases recognizable 
as identical with, or close 1 y similar to, those of earlier scholars. 
He made one coherent system out of ideas of classification 
and development already found in others. What is new is the 
philosophical substructure of Hegelian origin, and there can be 
no doubt that Schleicher imagined that by this addition he con- 
tributed very much towards giving stability and durability to 
the whole system. And yet this proved to be the least stable 
and durable part of the structure, and as a matter of fact the 
Hegelian reasoning is not repeated by a single one of those who 
give their adherence to the classification. Xor can it be said 
to carry conviction, and undoubtedly it has seemed to most 
linguists at the same time too rigid and too unreal to have any 

But apart from the philosophical argument the classification 
proved very successful in the particular shape it had found in 
Schleicher. Its adoption into two such widely read works as 
Max Muller's and Whitney's Lectures on the Science of Language 
contributed very much to the popularity of the system, though 
*<he former's attempt at ascribing to the tripartition a sociological 


importance by saying that juxtaposition (isolation) is characteristic 
of the ' family stage,' agglutination of ' the nomadic stage ' and 
amalgamation (flexion) of the ' political stage ' of human society 
was hardly taken seriously by anybody. 

The chief reasons for the popularity of this classification are 
not far to seek." It is easy of handling and appeals to the 
natural fondness for clear-cut formulas through its specious 
appearance of regularity and rationality. Besides, it flatters 
widespread prejudices in so far as it places the two groups 
of languages highest that are spoken by those nations which 
have culturally and religiously exercised the deepest influence 
on the civilization of the world, Aryans and Semites. Therefore 
also Pott's view, according to which the incorporating or 
' polysynthetic ' American languages possess the same char- 
acteristics that distinguish flexion as against agglutination, only 
in a still higher degree, is generally tacitly discarded, for obviously 
it would not do to place some languages of American Indians 
higher than Sanskrit or Greek. But when these are looked upon 
as the very flower of linguistic development it is quite natural 
to regard the modern languages of Western Europe as degenerate 
corruptions of the ancient more highly flexional languages ; this 
is in perfect keeping with the prevalent admiration for classical 
antiquity and with the belief in a far past golden age. Argu- 
ments such as these may not have been consciously in the minds 
of the framers of the ordinary classification, but there can be 
no doubt that they have been unconsciously working in favour 
of the system, though very little thought seems to be required 
to show the fallacy of the assumption that high civilization 
has any intrinsic and necessary connexion with the grammatical 
construction of the language spoken by the race or nation con- 
cerned. No language of modern Europe presents the flexional 
type in a purer shape than Lithuanian, where we find preserved 
nearly the same grammatical system as in old Sanskrit, yet no 
one would assert that the culture of Lithuanian peasants is higher 
than that of Shakespeare, whose language has lost an enormous 
amount of the old flexions. Culture and language must be appraised 
separately, each on its own merits and independently of the 

From a purely linguistic point of view there are many objections 
to the usual classification, and it will be well here to bring them 
together, though this will mean an interruption of the historical 
survey which is the main object of these chapters. 

First let us look upon the tripartition as purporting a com- 
prehensive classification of languages as existing side by side 
without any regard to historic development (the nebeneinander 


of Schleicher). Here it does not seem to be an ideal manner of 
classifying a great many objects to establish three classes of such 
different dimensions that the first comprises only Chinese and 
some other related languages of the Far East, and the third only 
two families of languages, while the second includes hundreds 
of unrelated languages of the most heterogeneous character. 
It seems certain that the languages of Class I represent one definite 
type of linguistic structure, and it may be that Aryan and Semitic 
should be classed together on account of the similarity of their 
structure, though this is by no means quite certain and has been 
denied (by Bopp, and in recent times by Porzezinski) ; but what 
is indubitable is that the ' agglutinating ' class is made to com- 
prehend languages of the most diverse type, even if we follow Pott 
and exclude from this class all incorporating languages. Finnish 
is always mentioned as a typically agglutinative language, yet 
there we meet with such declensional forms as nominative vesi 
'water,' toinen 'second,' partitive vettd, toista, genitive veden, 
toisen, and such verbal forms as sido-n ' I bind,' sido-t ' thou 
bindest,' sito-o ' he binds,' and the three corresponding persons 
in the plural, sido-mme, sido-tte, sito-vat. Here we are far from 
having one unchangeable root to which endings have been glued, 
for the root itself undergoes changes before the endings. In 
Kiyombe (Congo) the perfect of verbs is in many cases formed 
by means of a vowel change that is a complete parallel to the 
apophony in English drink, drank, thus vanga 'do, 'perfect venge, 
twala 'bring,' perfect twele or twede, etc. (Anthropos, ii. p. 761). 
Examples like these show that flexion, in whatever way we may 
define this term, is not the prerogative of the Aryans and Semites, 
but may be found in other nations as well. ' Agglutination ' is 
either too vague a term to be used in classification, or else, if it 
is taken strictly according to the usual definition, it is too definite 
to comprise many of the languages which are ordinarily reckoned 
to belong to the second class. 

It will be seen, also, that those writers who aim at giving descrip- 
tions of a variety of human tongues, or of them all, do not content 
themselves with the usual three classes, but have a greater number. 
This began with Steinthal, who in various works tried to classify 
languages partly from geographical, partly from structural points 
of view, without, however, arriving at any definite or consistent 
system. Friedrich Muller, in his great Grundriss der Sprachwis- 
senschaft, really gives up the psychological or structural division of 
languages, distributing the more than hundred different languages 
that he describes among twelve races of mankind, characterized 
chiefly by external criteria that have nothing to do with language. 
Misteli establishes six main types : I. Incorporating. II. Root- 


isolating. III. Stem-isolating. IV. Affixing (Anreihende). V. Ag- 
glutinating. VI. Flexional. These he also distributes so as 
to form four classes : (1) languages with sentence- words : I ; 
(2) languages with no words : II, III and IV ; (3) languages with 
apparent words : V ; and (4) languages with real words : VI. 
But the latter division had better be left alone ; it turns on 
the intricate question " What constitutes a word ? " and ulti- 
mately depends on the usual depreciation of ' inferior races ' 
and corresponding exaltation of our own race, which is alone 
reputed capable of possessing ' real words.' I do not see why 
we should not recognize that the vocables of Greenlandic, 
Malay, Kafir or Finnish are just as ' real ' words as any in 
Hebrew or Latin. 

Our final result, then, is that the tripartition is insufficient and 
inadequate to serve as a comprehensive classification of languages 
actually existing. Nor shall we wonder at this if we see the way 
in which the theory began historically in an obiter dictum of Fr. v. 
Schlegel at a time when the inner structure of only a few languages 
had been properly studied, and if we consider the lack of clearness 
and definiteness inherent in such notions as agglutination and 
flexion, which are nevertheless mad the corner-stones of the 
whole system. We therefore must go back to the wise saying 
of Humboldt quoted on p. 59, that the structural diversities of 
languages are too great for us to classify them comprehensively. 

In a subsequent part of this work I shall deal with the 
tripartition as representing three successive stages in the 
development of such languages as our own (the nacheinander 
of Schleicher), and try to show that Schleicher's view is not 
borne out by the facts of linguistic history, which give us a 
totally different picture of development. 

From both points of view, then, I think that the classifica- 
tion here considered deserves to be shelved among the hasty 
generalizations in which the history of every branch of science 
is unfortunately so rich. 

m. 6. Reconstruction. 

Probably Schleicher's most original and important contribution 
to linguistics was his reconstruction of the Proto-Aryan language, 
die indogermanische ursprache. The possibility of inferentially 
constructing this parent language, which to Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, 
Gothic, etc., was what Latin was to Italian, Spanish, French, 
etc., was early in his thoughts (see quotations illustrating the 
gradual growth of the idea in Oertel, p. 39 f.), but it was not 
till the first edition of his Compendium that he carried it out in 



detail, giving there for each separate chapter (vowels, consonants, 
roots, stem-formation, declension, conjugation) first the Proto- 
Aryan forms and then those actually found in the different languages, 
from which the former were inferred. This arrangement has the 
advantage that the reader everywhere sees the historical evolution 
in the natural order, beginning with the oldest and then proceeding 
to the later stages, just as the Romanic scholar begins with Latin 
and then takes in successive stages Old French, Modern French, 
etc. But in the case of Proto- Aryan this procedure is apt to 
deceive the student and make him take these primitive forms 
as something certain, whose existence reposes on just as good 
evidence as the forms found in Sanskrit literature or in German 
or English as spoken in our own days. When he finds some forms 
given first and used to explain some others, there is some danger 
of his forgetting that the forms given first have a quite different 
status to the others, and that their only raison d'etre is the desire 
of a modern linguist to explain existing forms in related languages 
which present certain similarities as originating from a common 
original form, which he does not find in his texts and has, there- 
fore, to reconstruct. But apart from this there can be no doubt 
that the reconstruction of older forms (and the ingenious device, 
due to Schleicher, of denoting such forms by means of a preposed 
asterisk to distinguish them from forms actually found) has been 
in many ways beneficial to historical grammar. Only it may 
be questioned whether Schleicher did not go too far when he wished 
to base the whole grammar of all the Aryan languages on such 
reconstructions, instead of using them now and then to explain 
single facts. 

Schleicher even ventured (and in this he seems to have had no 
follower) to construct an entire little fable in primitive Aryan: 
see 4i Eine fabel in indogermanischer ursprache," Beitrdge zur vergl. 
gprachforschung, 5. 206 (1868). In the introductory remarks he 
complains of the difficulty of such attempts, chiefly because of 
the almost complete lack of particles capable of being inferred 
from the existing languages, but he seems to have entertained 
no doubt about the phonetic and grammatical forms of the words 
he employed. As the fable is not now commonly known, I give 
it here, with Schleicher's translation, as a document of this period 
of comparative linguistics. 


Avis, jasmin varna na a ast, dadarka akvams, tarn, vagham 
garum vaghantam, tarn, bharam magham, tarn, manum aku 
bharantam. Avis akvabhjams a vavakat : kard aghnutai mai 
vidanti manum akvams agantam. 



Akvasas a vavakant : krudhi aval, kard aghnutai vividvant- 
svas : manus patis varnam avisams karnanti svabhjam gharmam 
vastram avibhjams ka varna na asti. 

Tat kukruvants avis agram a bhugat. 


[Ein] schaf, [auf] welchem wolle nicht war (ein geschorenes 
schaf) sah rosse, das [einen] schweren wagen fahrend, das [eine] 
grosse last, das [einen] menschen schnell tragend. [Das] schaf 
sprach [zu den] rossen : [Das] herz wird beengt [in] mir (es thut 
mir herzlich leid), sehend [den] menschen [die] rosse treibend. 

[Die] rosse sprachen : Hore schaf, [das] herz wird beengt [in 
den] gesehen-habenden (es thut uns herzlich leid, da wir wissen) : 
[der] mensch, [der] herr macht [die] wolle [der] schafe [zu einem] 
warmen kleide [fur] sich und [den] schafen ist nicht wolle (die 
schafe aber haben keine wolle mehr, sie werden geschoren ; es 
geht ihnen noch schlechter als den rossen). 

Dies gehort habend bog (entwich) [das] schaf [auf das] feld 
(es machte sich aus dem staube). 

The question here naturally arises : Is it possible in the way 
initiated by Schleicher to reconstruct extinct linguistic stages, 
and what degree of probability can be attached to the forms thus 
created by linguists ? The answer certainly must be that in some 
instances the reconstruction may have a very strong degree of 
probability, namely, if the data on which it is based are unam- 
biguous and the form to be reconstructed is not far removed 
from that or those actually found ; but that otherwise any re- 
construction becomes doubtful, and naturally the more so according 
to the extent of the reconstruction (as when a whole text is con- 
structed) and to the distance in time that intervenes between the 
known and the unknown stage. If we look at the genitives of 
Lat. genus and Gr. genos, which are found as generis and genous, 
it is easy to see that both presuppose a form with s between two 
vowels, as we see a great many intervocalic s's becoming r in Latin 
and disappearing in Greek ; but when Schleicher gives as the 
prototype of both (and of corresponding forms in the other lan- 
guages) Aryan ganasas, he oversteps the limits of the permissible 
in so far as he ascribes to the vowels definite sounds not really 
warranted by the known forms, If we knew the modern Scan- 
dinavian languages and English only, we should not hesitate to 
give to the Proto-Gothonic genitive of the word for ' mother ' 
the ending -s, cf . Dan. moders, E. mother's ; but G. der mutter 
suffices to show that the conclusion is not safe, and as a matter 
of fact, both in Old Norse and in Old English the genitive of this 


word is without an 8. An analogous case is presented when 
Schleicher reconstructs the nom. of the word for ' father ' as 
patars, because he presupposes -* as the invariable sign of every 
nom. sg. masc., although in this particular word not a single one 
of the old languages has - in the nominative. All Schleicher's 
reconstructions are based on the assumption that Primitive Aryan 
had a very simple structure, only few consonant and fewer vowel 
sounds, and great regularity in morphology ; but, as we shall see, 
this assumption is completely gratuitous and was exploded only 
a few years after his death. Gabelentz (Spr 182), therefore, was 
right when he said, with a certain irony, that the Aryan ursprache 
had changed beyond recognition in the short time between 
Schleicher and Brugmann. The moral to be drawn from all 
this seems to be that hypothetical and starred forms should be 
used sparingly and with the extremest caution. 

With regard to inferential forms denoted by a star, the follow- 
ing note may not be out of place here. Their purely theoretical 
character is not always realized. An example will illustrate what 
I mean. If etymological dictionaries give as the origin of F. 
menage (OF. maisnage) a Latin form *mansionaticum, the etymology 
may be correct although such a Latin word may never at any 
time have been uttered. The word was framed at some date, 
no one knows exactly when, from the word which at various 
times had the forms (ace.) mansionem, *masione, maison, by 
means of the ending which at first had the form -aticum (as 
in viaticum), and finally (through several intermediate stages) 
became -age ; but at what stage of each the two elements met to 
make the word which eventually became menage, no one can tell, 
so that the only thing really asserted is that if the word had been 
formed at a very early date (which is far from probable) it would 
have been mansionaticum. It would, therefore, perhaps be more 
correct to say that the word is from mansione -\- -aticum. 

HI. 7. Curtius, Madvig, and Specialists. 

Second only to Schleicher among the linguists of those days 
was Georg Curtius (1820-85), at one time his colleague in the 
University of Prague. Curtius's special study was Greek, and his 
books on the Greek verb and on Greek etymology cleared up a 
great many doubtful points ; he also contributed very much to 
bridge the gulf between classical philology and Aryan linguistics. 
His views on general questions were embodied in the book Z/ur 
Chronologic der indogermanischen Sprachforschung (1873). While 
Schleicher died when his fame was at its highest and his theories 
were seemingly victorious in all the leading circles, Curtius had 


the misfortune to see a generation of younger men, including some 
of his own best disciples, such as Brugmann, advance theories that 
seemed to him to be in conflict with the most essential principles 
of his cherished science ; and though he himself, like Schleicher, 
had always been in favour of a stricter observance of sound- 
laws than his predecessors, his last book was a polemic against 
those younger scholars who carried the same point to the excess 
of admitting no exceptions at all, who believed in innumerable 
analogical formations even in the old languages, and whose re- 
constructions of primitive forms appeared to the old man as 
deprived of that classical beauty of the ursprache which was 
represented in his own and Schleicher 's works (Zur Kritik der 
neuesten Sprachforschung, 1885). But this is anticipating. 

If Curtius was a comparativist with a sound knowledge of 
classical philology, Johan Nikolai Madvig was pre-eminently a 
classical philologist who took a great interest in general linguistics 
and brought his critical acumen and sober common sense to bear 
on many of the problems that exercised the minds of his contem- 
poraries. He was opposed to everything of a vague and mystical 
nature in the current theories of language and disliked the tendency 
of some scholars to find deep-lying mysterious powers at the root 
of linguistic phenomena. But he probably went too far in his 
rationalism, for example, when he entirely denied the existence 
of the sound-symbolism on which Humboldt had expatiated. 
He laid much stress on the identity of the linguistic faculty in 
all ages : the first speakers had no more intention than people 
to-day of creating anything systematic or that would be good 
for all times and all occasions they could have no other object 
in view than that of making themselves understood at the moment ; 
hence the want of system which we find everywhere in languages : 
a different number of cases in singular and plural, different endings, 
etc. Madvig did not escape some inconsistencies, as when he 
himself would explain the use of the soft vowel a to denote the 
feminine gender by a kind of sound-symbolism, or when he thought 
it possible to determine in what order the different grammatical 
ideas presented themselves to primitive man (tense relation first 
in the verb, number before case in the noun). He attached too 
little value to phonological and etymological research, but on 
the whole his views were sounder than many which were set forth 
on the same subjects at the time ; his papers, however, were very 
little known, partly because they were written in Danish, partly 
because his style was extremely heavy and difficult, and when 
he finally brought out his Kleine philologische schriften in German 
(1875), he expressed his regret in the preface at finding that 
many of the theories he had put forward years before in Danish 


had in the meantime been independently arrived at by Whitney, 
who had had the advantage of expressing them in a world-language. 
One of the most important features of the period with which 
we are here dealing is the development of a number of special 
branches of historical linguistics on a comparative basis. Curtius's 
work on Greek might be cited as one example ; in the same way 
there were specialists in Sanskrit (Westergaard and Benfey among 
others), in Slavonic (Miklosich and Schleicher), in Keltic (Zeuss), 
etc. Grimm had numerous followers in the Gothonic or Germanic 
field, while in Romanic philology there was an active and flourishing 
school, headed by Friedrich Diez, whose Grammatik d&r romanischen 
Sprachen and Etymologisches Worterbuch der romanischen Sprachen 
were perhaps the best introduction to the methodical study of 
linguistics that anyone could desire ; the writer of these lines 
looks back with the greatest gratitude to that period of his youth 
when he had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of these 
truly classical works. Everything was so well arranged, so care- 
fully thought out and so lucidly explained, that one had every- 
where the pleasant feeling that one was treading on firm ground, 
the more so as the basis of the whole was not an artificially con- 
structed nebulous ursprache, but the familiar forms and words of 
an historical language. Here one witnessed the gradual differ- 
entiation of Latin into seven or eight distinct languages, whose 
development it was possible to follow century by century in well- 
authenticated texts. The picture thus displayed before one's 
eyes of actual linguistic growth in all domains sounds, forms, 
word-formation, syntax and (a very important corollary) of the 
interdependence of these domains, could not but leave a very 
strong impression not merely enthusiasm for what had been 
achieved here, but also a salutary skepticism of theories in other 
fields which had not a similarly solid basis. 

EL 8. Max Miiller and Whitney. 

Working, as we have seen, in many fields, linguists had now 
brought to light a shoal of interesting facts affecting a great many 
languages and had put forth valuable theories to explain these 
facts ; but most of their work remained difficult of access except 
to the specialist, and very little was done by the experts to impart 
to educated people in general those results of the new science 
which might be enjoyed without deeper study. But in 1861 Max 
Muller gave the first series of those Lectures on the Science of 
Language which, in numerous editions, did more than anything 
else to popularize linguistics and served to initiate a great many 
students into our science. In many ways these lectures were 


excellently adapted for this purpose, for the author had a certain 
knack of selecting interesting illustrations and of presenting his 
subject in a way that tended to create the same enthusiasm for 
it that he felt himself. But his arguments do not bear a close 
inspection. Too often, after stating a problem, he is found to fly 
off at a tangent and to forget what he has set out to prove for the 
sake of an interesting etymology or a clever paradox. He gives an 
uncritical acceptance to many of Schleicher's leading ideas ; thus, 
the science of linguistics is to him a physical science and has 
nothing to do with philology, which is an historical science. ^If, 
however, we look at the book itself, we shall find that everything 
that he counts on to secure the interest of his reader, everything 
that made his lectures so popular, is really non-natxiralistic : all 
those brilliant exposes of word-history are really 1L^ historical 
anecdotes in a book on social evolution ; they may have some 
bearing on the fundamental problems, but these are rarely or 
never treated as real problems of natural science. Nor does he, 
when taken to task, maintain his view very seriously, but partly 
retracts it and half-heartedly ensconces himself behind the dictum 
that everything depends on the definition you give of " physical 
science " (see especially Ch 234, 442, 497) thus calling forth 
Whitney's retort that " the implication here is that our author 
has a right at his own good pleasure to lay down such a definition 
of a physical science as should make the name properly applicable 
to the study of this particular one among the products of human 
capacities. ... So he may prove that a whale is a fish, if you only 
allow him to define what a fish is " (M 23 f.). 

Though Schleicher and Max Miiller in their own day had few 
followers in defining linguistics as a natural or physical science 
the opposite view was taken, for instance, by Curtius (K 154), 
Madvig and Whitney there can be no doubt that the naturalistic 
point of view practically, though perhaps chiefly unconsciously, 
had wide-reaching effects on the history of linguistic science. It 
was intimately connected with the problems chiefly investigated 
and with the way in which they were treated. From Grimm 
through Pott to Schleicher and his contemporaries we see a growing 
interest in phonological comparisons ; more and more " sound- 
laws " were discovered, and those found were more and more 
rigorously applied, with the result that etymological investigation 
was attended with a degree of exactness of which former genera- 
tions had no idea. But as these phonological studies were not, 
as a rule, based on a real, penetrating insight into the nature 
of speech-sounds, the work of the etymologist tended more and 
more to be purely mechanical, and the science of language was 
to a great extent deprived of those elements which are more 


intimately connected with the human ' soul.' Isolated vowels 
and consonants were compared, isolated flexional forms and iso- 
lated words were treated more and more in detail and explained 
by other isolated forms and words in other languages, all of them 
being like dead leaves shaken off a tree rather than parts of a 
living and moving whole. The speaking individual and the speak- 
ing community were too much lost sight of. Too often compara- 
tivists gained a considerable acquaintance with the sound-laws 
and the grammatical forms of various languages without knowing 
much about those languages themselves, or at any rate without 
possessing any degree of familiarity with them. Schleicher was 
not blind to the danger of this. A short time before his death 
he brought out an Indogermanische Chrestomathie (Weimar, 1869), 
and in the preface he justifies his book by saying that " it is of 
great value, besides learning the grammar, to be acquainted, how- 
ever slightly, with the languages themselves. For a comparative 
grammar of related languages lays stress on what is common to 
a language and its sisters ; consequently, the languages may appear 
more alike than they are in reality, and their idiosyncrasies may 
be thrown into the shade. Linguistic specimens form, therefore, 
an indispensable supplement to comparative grammar." Other 
and even more weighty reasons might have been adduced, for 
grammar is after all only one side of a language, and it is certainly 
the best plan, if one wants to understand and appreciate the 
position of any language, to start with some connected texts 
of tolerable length, and only afterwards to see how its forms are 
related to and may be explained by those of other languages. 

Though the mechanical school of linguists, with whom historical 
and comparative phonology was more and more an end in itself, 
prevailed to a great extent, the trend of a few linguists was different. 
Among these one must especially mention Heymann Steinthal, 
who drew his inspiration from Humboldt and devoted numerous 
works to the psychology of language. Unfortunately, Steinthal was 
greatly inferior to Schleicher in clearness and consistency of 
thought : " When I read a work of Steinthal's, and even many 
parts of Humboldt, I feel as if walking through shifting clouds," 
Max Miiller remarks, with good reason, in a letter (Life, i. 256). 
This obscurity, in connexion with the remoteness of Steinthal 'a 
studies, which ranged from Chinese to the language of the Mande 
negroes, but paid little regard to European languages, prevented 
him from exerting any powerful influence on the linguistic thought 
of his generation, except perhaps through his emphatic assertion 
of the truth that language can only be understood and explained 
by means of psychology : his explanation of syntactic attraction 
paved the way for much in Paul's Prinzipien. 


The leading exponent of general linguistics after the death of 
Schleicher was the American William Dwight Whitney, whose 
books, Language and the Study of Language (first ed. 1867) and 
its replica, The Life and Growth of Language (1875), were translated 
into several languages and were hardly less popular than those 
of his antagonist, Max Miiller. Whitney's style is less brilliant 
than Max Muller's, and he scorns the cheap triumphs which the 
latter gains by the multiplication of interesting illustrations ; 
he never wearies of running down Muller's paradoxes and incon- 
sistencies, 1 from which he himself was spared by his greater general 
solidity and sobriety of thought. The chief point of divergence 
between them was, as already indicated, that Whitney looked 
upon language as a human institution that has grown slowly out 
of the necessity for mutual understanding ; he was opposed to all 
kinds of mysticism, and words to him were conventional signs 
not, of course, that he held that there ever was a gathering of 
people that settled the meaning of each word, but in the sense 
of " resting on a mutual understanding or a community of habit," 
no matter how brought about. But in spite of all differences 
between the two they are in many respects alike, when viewed from 
the coign of vantage of the twentieth century : both give expres- 
sion to the best that had been attained by fifty or sixty years of 
painstaking activity to elucidate the mysteries of speech, and 
especially of Aryan words and forms, and neither of them was 
deeply original enough to see through many of the fallacies of the 
young science. Consequently, their views on the structure of 
Proto-Aryan, on roots and their role, on the building-up and decay 
of the form-system, are essentially the same as those of their con- 
temporaries, and many of their theories have now crumbled away, 
including much of what they probably thought firmly rooted for 
all time. 

* In numerous papers in North Am. Review and elsewhere, and finally 
in the pamphlet Max Mutter and the Science of Language, a Criticism (New 
York, 1892). Muller's reply to the earlier attacks is found in Chips from 
a German Workshop, vol. iv. 


1 1. Achievements about 1870. 2. New Discoveries. 3. Phonetic Laws 
and Analogy. 4. General Tendencies. 

IV. 1. Achievements about 1870. 

IN works of this period one frequently meets with expressions 
of pride and joy in the wonderful results that had been achieved 
in comparative linguistics in the course of a few decades. Thus 
Max Miiller writes : " All this becomes clear and intelligible by 
the light of Comparative Grammar ; anomalies vanish, excep- 
tions prove the rule, and we perceive more plainly every day 
how in language, as elsewhere, the conflict between the freedom 
claimed by each individual and the resistance offered by the 
community at large establishes in the end a reign of law most 
wonderful, yet perfectly rational and intelligible " ; and again : 
" There is nothing accidental, nothing irregular, nothing without 
a purpose and meaning in any part of Greek or Latin grammar. 
No one who has once discovered this hidden life of language, 
no one who has once found out that what seemed to be merely 
anomalous and whimsical in language is but, as it were, a 
petrification of thought, of deep, curious, poetical, philosophical 
thought, will ever rest again till he has descended as far as he 
can descend into the ancient shafts of human speech," etc. 
(Ch 41 f.). Whitney says: "The difference between the old 
haphazard style of etymologizing and the modern scientific 
method lies in this : that the latter, while allowing everything 
to be theoretically possible, accepts nothing as actual which 
is not proved by sufficient evidence ; it brings to bear upon 
each individual case a wide circle of related facts ; it im- 
poses upon the student the necessity of extended comparison 
and cautious deduction ; it makes him careful to inform himself 
as thoroughly as circumstances allow respecting the history of 
every word he deals with " (L 386). And Benfey, in his 
Gexchichte der Sprachwissenschaft (1869, see pp. 562 f. and 596), 
arrives at the conclusion that the investigation of Aryan languages 
has already attained a very great degree of certainty, and that 
the reconstruction of Primitive Aryan, both in grammar and 



vocabulary, must be considered as in the main settled in such 
a way that only some details are still doubtful ; thus, it is certain 
that the first person singular ended in -mi, and that this is a 
phonetic reduction of the pronoun ma, and that the word for 
' horse ' was akva. This feeling of pride is certainly in a great 
measure justified if we compare the achievements of linguistic 
science at that date with the etymologies of the eighteenth 
century ; it must also be acknowledged that 90 per cent, 
of the etymologies in the best-known Aryan languages which 
must be recognized as established beyond any reasonable doubt 
had already been discovered before 1870, while later investi- 
gations have only added a small number that may be considered 
firmly established, together with a great many more or less 
doubtful collocations. But, on the other hand, in the light of 
later research, we can now see that much of what was then con- 
sidered firm as a rock did not deserve the implicit trust then 
placed in it. 

IV. 2. New Discoveries. 

This is true in the first place with regard to the phonetic 
structure ascribed to Proto-Aryan. A series of brilliant dis- 
coveries made about the year 1880 profoundly modified the 
views of scholars about the consonantal and still more about 
the vocalic system of our family of languages. This is parti- 
cularly true of the so-called palatal law. 1 So long as it was 
taken for granted that Sanskrit had in all essential points pre- 
served the ancient sound system, while Greek and the other 
languages represented younger stages, no one could explain why 
Sanskrit in some cases had the palatals c and j (sounds approxi- 
mately like the initial sounds of E. chicken and joy) where 
the other languages have the velar sounds k and g. It was now 
recognized that so far from the distribution of the two classes 
of sounds in Sanskrit being arbitrary, it followed strict rules, 

1 Who was the discoverer of the palatal law ? This has been hotly 
discussed, and as the law was in so far anticipated by other discoveries of 
the 'seventies as to be " in the air," it is perhaps futile to try to fix the 
paternity on any single man. However, it seems now perfectly clear that 
Vilhelm Thomson was the first to mention it in his lectures (1875), but 
unfortunately the full and able paper in which he intended to lay it before 
the world was delayed for a couple of years and then kept in his drawers 
when he heard that Johannes Schmidt was preparing a paper on the same 
subject : it was printed in 1920 in the second volume of his Samlede Af hand- 
linger (from the original manuscript). Esaias Tegner had found the law 
independently and had printed five sheets of a book De ariska sprakens 
palataler, which he withdrew when he found that Collitz and de Saussure 
had expressed similar views. Karl Verner, too, had independently arrived 
at the same results ; see his AJhandlinger og Breve, 109 ff., 305. 


though these were not to be seen from Sanskrit itself. Where 
Sanskrit a following the consonant corresponded to Greek or 
Latin o, Sanskrit had velar k or g ; where, on the other hand, 
it corresponded to Greek or Latin e, Sanskrit had palatal c or j. 
Thus we have, for instance, c in Sansk. ca, ' and ' = Greek te, 
Lat. qiie, but k in kakSa = Lat. coxa; the difference between 
the two consonants in a perfect like cakara, * have done,'* is 
dependent on the same vowel alternation as that of Greek 
Uloipa; c in the verb pacati, 'cooks,' as against k in the sub- 
stantive pakat, ' cooking,' corresponds to the vowels in Greek 
Ugei as against logos, etc. All this shows that Sanskrit itself 
must once have had the vowels e and o instead of a ; before the 
front vowel e the consonant has then been fronted or palatalized, 
as ch in E. chicken is due to the following front vowel, while 
k has been preserved before o in cock. Sanskrit is thus shown 
to be in some important respects less conservative than Greek, 
a truth which was destined profoundly to modify many theories 
concerning the whole family of languages. As Curtius said, 
with some resentment of the change in view then taking place, 
" Sanskrit, once the oracle of the rising science and trusted 
blindly, is now put on one side ; instead of the traditional ex 
oriente lux the saying is now in oriente tenebroz " (K 97). 

The new views held in regard to Aryan vowels also resulted 
in a thorough revision of the theory of apophony (ablaut). The 
great mass of Aryan vowel alternations were shown to form a 
vast and singularly consistent system, the main features of which 
may be gathered from the following tabulation of a few select 
Greek examples, arranged into three columns, each representing 
one ' grade ' : 

i n m 

(1) petomai p6te eptomai 
(s)ekho (s)okhos eskhon 

(2) leipo leloipa elipon 

(3) peuthomai eputh6men 

(4) derkomai dedorka edrakon 

(5) teino (*tenjo) tonos tatos 

It is outside our scope to show how this scheme gives us a 
natural clue to the vowels in such verbs as E. I ride, II rode, HI 
ridden (2), G. I werde, II icard, III geworden (4), or I binde, H band, 
III gebunden (5). It will be seen from the Greek examples that 
grade I is throughout characterized by the vowel e and grade 
II by the vowel o ; as for grade III, the vowel of I and II has 
entirely disappeared in (1), where there is no vowel between the 


two consonants, and in (2) and (3), where the element found 
after e and o and forming a diphthong with these has now 
become a full (syllabic) vowel t and u by itself. In (4) Sanskrit 
has in grade III a syllabic r (adrfam = Gr. tdrakon), while 
Greek has ra, or in some instances ar, and Gothonic has ur or or 
according to the vowel of the following syllable. It was this 
fact that suggested to Brugmann his theory that in (5) Greek a, 
Lat. in, Goth, un in the third grade originated in syllabic n, and 
that tatos thus stood for *tntos ; he similarly explained Gr. deka, 
Lat. decem, Gothic taihun, E. ten from *dekm with syllabic m. 
I do not believe that his theory is entirely correct ; but so 
much is certain, that in all instances grade III is characterized 
by a reduction of the vowel that appears in the two other 
grades as e and o, and there can be no doubt that this reduction 
is due to want of stress. This being so, it becomes impossible 
to consider Up the original root-form, which in leip and loip has 
baen extended, and the new theory of apophony thus disposes 
of the old theory, based on the Indian grammarians' view that 
the shortest form was the root-form, which was then raised 
through ' guna ' and ' vrddhi.' This now is reversed, and the 
fuller form is shown to be the oldest, which in some cases was 
shortened according to a process paralleled in many living 
languages. Bopp was right in his rejection of Grimm's theory 
of an inner, significatory reason for apophony, as apophony is 
now shown to have been due to a mechanical cause, though a 
different one from that suggested by Bopp (see above, p. 53) ; 
and Grimm was also wrong in another respect, because apophony 
is found from the first in noun-formations as well as in >erbs, 
where Grimm believed it to have been instituted to indicate 
tense differences, with which it had originally nothing to do. 
Apophony even appears in other syllables than the root syllable ; 
the new view thus quite naturally paved the way for skepticism 
with regard to the old doctrine that Aryan roots were neces- 
sarily monosyllabic ; and scholars soon began to admit dissyllabic 
' bases ' in place of the old roots ; instead of lip, the earliest 
accessible form thus came to be something like leipo or leipe. 
In this way the new vowel system had far-reaching consequences 
and made linguists look upon many problems in a new light. It 
should be noted, however, that the mechanical explanation of 
apophony from difference in accent applies only to grade III, in 
contradistinction to grades I and II ; the reason of the alter- 
nation between the e of I and the o of II is by no means clear. 
The investigations leading to the discovery of the palatal 
law and the new theory of apophony were only a part of the 
immense labour of a number of able linguists in the 'seventies 


and 'eighties, which cleared up many obscure points in Aryan 
phonology and morphology. One of the most famous dis- 
coveries was that of the Dane Karl Verner, that a whole series 
of consonant alternations in the old Gothonic languages was 
dependent on accent, and (more remarkable still) on the pri- 
meval accent, preserved in its oldest form in Sanskrit only, and 
differing from that of modern Gothonic languages in resting in 
some instances on the ending and in others on the root. When 
it was realized that the fact that German has t in vater, but d 
in bruder, was due to a different accentuation of the two words 
three or four thousand years ago, or that the difference between 
s and r in E. was and were was connected with the fact that per- 
fect singulars in Sanskrit are stressed on the root, but plurals on 
the ending, this served not only to heighten respect for the 
linguistic science that was able to demonstrate such truths, but 
also to increase the feeling that the world of sounds was subject 
to strict laws comparable to those of natural science. 

IV. 3. Phonetic Laws and Analogy. 

The ' blind ' operation of phonetic laws became the chief 
tenet of a new school of ' young-grammarians ' or ' junggram- 
matiker ' (Brugmann, Delbruck, Osthoff, Paul and others), who 
somewhat noisily flourished their advance upon earlier linguists 
and justly roused the anger not only of their own teachers, 
including Curtius, but also of fellow-students like Johannes 
Schmidt and Collitz. For some years a fierce discussion took 
place on the principles of linguistic science, in which young- 
grammarians tried to prove deductively the truth of their 
favourite thesis that " Sound-laws admit of no exceptions " 
(first, it seems, enounced by Leskien). Osthoff wrongly main- 
tamed that sound changes belonged to physiology and analogical 
change to psychology ; but though that distribution of the two 
kinds of change to two different domains was untenable, the 
distinction in itself was important and proved a valuable, 
though perhaps sometimes too easy instrument in the hands 
of the historical grammarian. It was quite natural that those 
who insisted on undeviating phonetic laws should turn their 
attention to those cases in which forms appeared that did not 
conform to these laws, and try to explain them ; and thus they 
inevitably were led to recognize the immense importance of ana- 
logical formations in the economy of all languages. Such forma- 
tions had long been known, but little attention had been paid 
to them, and they were generally termed ' false analogies ' and 
looked upon as corruptions or inorganic formations found only 


or chiefly in a degenerate age, in which the true meaning and 
composition of the old forms was no longer understood. Men 
like Curtius were scandalized at the younger school explaining 
so many even of the noble forms of ancient Greek as due to this 
upstart force of analogy. His opponents contended that the 
name of ' false analogy ' was wrong and misleading : the analogy 
in itself was perfect and was handled with unerring instinct in 
each case. They likewise pointed out that analogical formations, 
so far from being perversions of a late age, really represented one 
of the vital principles of language, without which it could never 
have come into existence. 

One of the first to take the new point of view and to explain 
it clearly was Hermann Paul. I quote from an early article 
(as translated by Sweet, CP 112) the following passages, which 
really struck a new note in linguistic theory : 

" There is one simple fact which should never be left out of 
sight, namely, that even in the parent Indogermanic language, 
long before its split-up, there were no longer any roots, stems, 
and suffixes, but only ready-made words, which were employed 
without the slightest thought of their composite nature. And 
it is only of such ready-made words that the store is composed 
from which everyone draws when he speaks. He has no stock 
of stems and terminations at his disposal from which he could 
construct the form required for each separate occasion. Not 
that he must necessarily have heard and learnt by heart every 
form he uses. This would, in fact, be impossible. He is, on the 
contrary, able of himself to form cases of nouns, tenses of verbs, etc., 
which he has either never heard or else not noticed specially ; 
but, as there is no combining of stem and suffix, this can only 
be done on the pattern of the other ready-made combinations 
which he has learnt from his fellows. These latter are first 
learnt one by one, and then gradually associated into groups 
which correspond to the grammatical categories, but are never 
clearly conceived as such without special training. This grouping 
not only greatly aids the memory, but also makes it possible to 
produce other combinations. And this is what we call analogy." 

" It is, therefore, clear that, while speaking, everyone is 
incessantly producing analogical forms. Reproduction by memory 
and new-formation by means of association are its two indis- 
pensable factors. It is a mistake to assume a language as given 
in grammar and dictionary, that is, the whole body of possible 
words and forms, as something concrete, and to forget that it 
is nothing but an abstraction devoid of reality, and that the 
actual language exists only in the individual, from whom it cannot 
be separated even in scientific investigation, if we will understand 


its nature and development. To comprehend the existence of 
each separate spoken form, we must not ask ' Is it current in the 
language ? ' or ' Is it conformable to the laws of the language 
as deduced by the grammarians ? ' but ' Has he who has just 
employed it previously had it in his memory, or has he formed 
it himself for the first time, and, if so, according to what ana- 
logy ? ' When, for instance, anyone employs the plural milben 
in German, it may be that he has learnt it from others, or else 
that he has only heard the singular milbe, but knows that such 
words as lerche, schtvalbe, etc., form their plural lerchen, etc., so 
that the association milbe-milben is unconsciously suggested to 
him. He may also have heard the plural milben, but remembers 
it so imperfectly that he would forget it entirely were it not 
associated in his mind with a series of similar forms which help 
him to recall it. It is, therefore, often difficult to determine the 
share memory and creative fancy have had in each separate 

Linguists thus set about it seriously to think of language in 
terms of speaking individuals, who have learnt their mother- 
tongue in the ordinary way, and who now employ it in their 
daily intercourse with other men and women, without in each 
separate case knowing what they owe to others and what they 
have to create on the spur of the moment. Just as Sokrates 
fetched philosophy down from the skies, so also now linguists 
fetched words and forms down from vocabularies and grammars 
and placed them where their natural home is, in the minds and 
on the lips of ordinary men who are neither lexicographers nor 
grammarians, but who nevertheless master their language with 
sufficient ease and correctness for all ordinary purposes. Linguists 
now were confronted with some general problems which had not 
greatly troubled their predecessors (with the solitary exception 
of Bredsdorff, whose work was entirely overlooked), namely, 
What are the causes of changes in language ? How are they 
brought about, and how should they be classified ? Many 
articles on these questions appeared in linguistic periodicals about 
the year 1880, but the profoundest and fullest treatment was 
found in a masterly book by H. Paul, Prinzipien der Sprach- 
geschichte, the first edition of which (1880) exercised a very con- 
siderable influence on linguistic thought, while the subsequent 
editions were constantly enlarged and improved so as to contain 
a wealth of carefully sifted material to illustrate the various pro- 
cesses of linguistic change. It should also be noted that Paul 
paid more and more attention to syntax, and that this part of 
grammar, which had been neglected by Bopp and Schleicher 
and their contemporaries, was about this time taken up by some 


of the leading linguists, who showed that the comparative and 
historical method was capable of throwing a flood of light on 
syntax no less than on morphology (Delbriick, Ziemer). 

IV. 4. General Tendencies. 

While linguists in the 'eighties were taking up, as we have 
seen, a great many questions of vast general importance that had 
not been treated by the older generation, on the other hand they 
were losing interest in some of the problems that had occupied 
their predecessors. This was the case with the question of the 
ultimate origin of grammatical endings. So late as 1869 Benfey 
included among Bopp's ' brilliant discoveries ' his theory that 
the s of the aorist and of the future was derived from the verb 
as, ' to be,' and that the endings of the Latin imperfect -bam 
and future -bo were from the synonymous verb fu = Sanskrit 
bhu (Gesch 377), and the next year Raumer reckons the same 
theories among Bopp's ' most important discoveries.' But soon 
after this we see that speculations of this kind somehow go out 
of fashion. One of the last books to indulge in them to any 
extent is Scherer's once famous Zur Geschichte der deutschen 
Sprache (2nd ed., 1878), in the eighth chapter of which the writer 
disports himself among primitive roots, endings, prepositions 
and pronouns, which he identifies and differentiates with such 
extreme boldness and confidence in his own wild fancies that 
a sober-minded man of the twentieth century cannot but feel 
dazed and giddy. The ablest linguists of the new school simply 
left these theories aside: no new explanations of the same 
description were advanced, and the old ones were not sub- 
stantiated by the ascertained phenomena of living languages. 
So much was found in these of the most absorbing interest that 
scholars ceased to care for what might lie behind Proto-Aryan ; 
some even went so far as to deprecate in strong expressions any 
attempts at what they termed ' glottogonic ' theories. To these 
matter-of-fact linguists all speculations as to the ultimate origin 
of language were futile and nebulous, a verdict which might be 
in no small degree justified by much of what had been written 
on the subject by quasi-philosophers and quasi -linguists. The 
aversion to these questions was shown as early as 1866, when 
La Societe de Linguistique was founded in Paris. Section 2 of 
the statutes of the Society expressly states that " La Societe" 
n'admet aucune communication concernant, soit 1'origine du 
langage, soit la creation d'une langue universelle " both of them 
questions which, as they can be treated in a scientific spirit, 
should not be left exclusively to dilettanti. 


The last forty years have witnessed an extraordinary activity 
on the part of scholars in investigating all domains of the Aryan 
languages in the light of the new general views and by the aid 
of the methods that have now become common property. 
Phonological investigations have no doubt had the lion's share 
and have to a great extent been signalized by that real insight 
into physiological phonetics which had been wanting in earlier 
linguists ; but very much excellent work has also been done in 
morphology, syntax and semantics ; and in all these domains 
much has been gained by considering words not as mere isolated 
units, but as parts of sentences, or, better, of connected speech. 
In phonetics more and more attention has been paid to sentence 
phonetics and ' sandhi phenomena ' ; the heightened interest in 
everything concerning ' accent ' (stress and pitch) has also led 
to investigations of sentence -stress and sentence -melody ; the 
intimate connexion between forms and their use or function in 
the sentence, in other words their syntax, has been more and 
more recognized ; and finally, if semantics (the study of the signi- 
fications of words) has become a real science instead of being a 
curiosity shop of isolated specimens, this has only been rendered 
possible through seeing words as connected with other words to 
form complete utterances. But this change of attitude could 
not have been brought about unless linguists had studied texts 
in the different languages to a far greater extent than had been 
done in previous periods ; thus, naturally, the antagonism formerly 
often felt between the linguistic and the purely philological study 
of the same language has tended to disappear, and many scholars 
have produced work both in their particular branch of linguistics 
and in the corresponding philology. There can be no doubt that 
this development has been profitable to both domains of scientific 

Another beneficial change is the new attitude taken with 
regard to the study of living speech. The science of linguistics 
had long stood in the sign of Cancer and had been constantly 
looking backwards to its own great loss. Now, with the greater 
stress laid on phonetics and on the psychology of language, the 
necessity of observing the phenomena of actual everyday speech 
was more clearly perceived. Among pioneers in this respect I 
must specially mention Henry Sweet ; now there is a steadily 
growing interest in living speech as the necessary foundation of 
all general theorizing. And with interest comes knowledge. 

It is outside the purpose of this volume to give the history 
of linguistic study during the last forty years in the same way 
as I have attempted to give it for the period before 1880, and I 
must therefore content myself with a few brief remarks on 



general tendencies. J even withstand the temptation to try and 
characterize the two greatest works on general linguistics that 
have appeared during this period, those by Georg v. d. Gabelentz 
and Wilhelm Wundt : important and in many ways excellent 
as they are, they have not exercised the same influence on con- 
temporary linguistic research as some of their predecessors. 
Personally I owe incomparably much more to the former than 
to the latter, who is much less of a linguist than of a psychologist 
and whose pages seem to me often richer in words than in fertil- 
izing ideas. As for the rest, I can give only a bare alphabetical 
list of some of the writers who during this period have dealt with 
the more general problems of linguistic change or linguistic 
theory, and must not attempt any appreciation of their works : 
Bally, Baudouin de Courtenay, Bloomfield, Breal Delbriick, van 
Ginneken, Hale, Henry, Hirt, Axel Kock, Meillet Meringer, Noreen, 
Oertel, Pedersen, Sandfeld (Jensen), de Saussure, Schuchardt, 
Sechehaye, Streitberg, Sturtevant, Siitterlin, Sweet, Uhlenbeck, 
Vossler, Wechssler. In the following parts of my work there 
will be many opportunities of mentioning their views, especially 
when I disagree with them, for I am afraid it will be impossible 
always to indicate what I owe to their suggestions. 

In the history of linguistic science we have seen in one period 
a tendency to certain large syntheses (the classification of 
languages into isolating, agglutinative and flexional, and the 
corresponding theory of three periods with its corollary touching 
the origin of flexional endings), and we have seen how these 
syntheses were later discredited, though never actually disproved, 
linguists contenting themselves with detailed comparisons and 
explanations of single words, forms or sounds without troubling 
about their ultimate origin or about the evolutionary tendencies 
of the whole system or structure of language. The question may 
therefore be raised, were Bopp and Schleic'her wrong in attempt- 
ing these large syntheses ? It would appear from the expressions 
of some modern linguists that they thought that any such com- 
prehensive generalization or any glottogonic theory were in itself 
of evil. But this can never be admitted. Science, of its very 
nature, aims at larger and larger generalizations, more and more 
comprehensive formulas, so as finally to bring about that " uni- 
fication of knowledge " of which Herbert Spencer speaks. It was 
therefore quite right of the early linguists to propound those 
great questions ; and their failure to solve them in a way that 
could satisfy the stricter demands of a later generation should 
not be charged too heavily against them. It was also quite 
right of the moderns to reject their premature solutions (though 
this was often done without any adequate examination), but 


it was decidedly wrong to put the questions out of court alto- 
gether. 1 These great questions have to be put over and over 
again, till a complete solution is found ; and the refusal to face 
these difficulties has produced a certain barrenness in modern 
linguistics, which must strike any impartial observer, however 
much he admits the fertility of the science in detailed investi- 
gations. Breadth of vision is not conspicuous in modern 
linguistics, and to my mind this lack is chiefly due to the fact 
that linguists have neglected all problems connected with a 
valuation of language. What is the criterion by which one word 
or one form should be preferred to another ? (most linguists 
refuse to deal with such questions of preference or of correctness 
of speech). Are the changes that we see gradually taking place 
in languages to be considered as on the whole beneficial or the 
opposite ? (most linguists pooh-pooh such questions). Would it 
be possible to construct an international language by which 
persons in different countries could easily communicate with 
one another ? (most linguists down to the present day have 
looked upon all who favour such ideas as visionaries and Uto- 
pians). It is my firm conviction that such questions as these 
admit of really scientific treatment and should be submitted to 
serious discussion. But before tackling those of them which 
fall within the plan of this work, it will be well to deal with some 
fundamental facts of what is popularly called the ' life ' of language, 
and first of all with the manner in which a child acquires its 
mother-tongue. For as language exists only in individuals and 
means some specific activities of human beings which are not 
inborn, but have to be learnt by each of them separately from 
his fellow-beings, it is important to examine somewhat in detail 
how this interaction of the individual and of the surrounding 
society is brought about. This, then, will occupy us in Book II. 

" Es ist besser, bei solchen versuchen zu irren als gar nicbt daruber 
nachzudenken," Curtius, K 145. 



1. From Screaming to Talking. 2. First Sounds. 3. Sound-laws of 
the Next Stage. 4. Groups of Sounds. 5. Mutilations and 
Reduplications. 6. Correction. 7. Tone, 

V. 1. From Screaming to Talking. 

A DANISH philosopher has said : " In his whole life man achieves 
nothing so great and so wonderful as what he achieved when he 
learnt to talk." When Darwin was asked in which three years 
of his life a man learnt most, he said : " The first three." 

A child's linguistic development covers three periods the 
screaming time, the crowing or babbling time, and the talking 
time. But the last is a long one, and must again be divided into 
two periods that of the "little language," the child's own 
language, and that of the common language or language of the 
community. In the former the child is linguistically an indi- 
vidualist, in the latter he is more and more socialized. 

Of the screaming time little need be said. A child's scream 
is not uttered primarily as a means of conveying anything to 
others, and so far is not properly to be called speech. But if 
from the child's side a scream is not a way of telling anything, 
its elders may still read something in it and hurry to relieve the 
trouble. And if the child comes to remark as it soon will 
that whenever it cries someone comes and brings it something 
pleasant, if only company, it will not be long till it makes use of 
this instrument whenever it is uneasy or wants something. The 
scream, which was at first a reflex action, is now a voluntary action. 
And many parents have discovered that the child has learnt to 
use its power of screaming to exercise a tyrannical power over 
them so that they have had to walk up and down all night with 
a screaming child that prefers this way of spending the night to 
lying quietly in its cradle. The only course is brutally to let the 
baby scream till it is tired, and persist in never letting it get its 
desire because it screams for it, but only because what it desires 
is good for it. The child learns its lesson, and a scream is once 
more what it was at first, an involuntary, irresistible result of the 
fact that something is wrong. 


104 SOUNDS [CH. v 

Screaming has, however, another side. It is of physiological 
value as an exercise of all the muscles and appliances which are 
afterwards to be called into play for speech and song. Nurses 
say and there may be something in it that the child who screams 
loudest as a baby becomes the best singer later. 

Babb'ing time produces pleasanter sounds which are more 
adapted for the purposes of speech. Cooing, crowing, babbling 
i.e. uttfi ing meaningless sounds and series of sounds is a delightful 
exercise like sprawling with outstretched arms and legs or trying 
to move the tiny fingers. It has been well said that for a long 
time a child's dearest toy is its tongue that is, of course, not the 
tongue only, but the other organs of speech as well, especially 
the lips and vocal chords. At first the movements of these organs 
are as uncontrolled as those of the arms, but gradually they become 
more systematic, and the boy knows what sound he wishes to 
utter and is in a position to produce it exactly. 

First, then, come single vowels or vowels with a single consonant 
preceding them, as la, ra, Id, etc., though a baby's sounds cannot 
be identified with any of ours or written down with our letters. 
For, though the head and consequently the mouth capacity is 
disproportionally great in an infant and grows more rapidly than 
its limbs, there is still a great difference between its mouth capacity 
and that required to utter normal speech-sounds. I have else- 
where (PhG, p. 81 ff.) given the results of a series of measurings 
of the jaw in children and adults and discussed the importance 
of these figures for phonetic theory : while there is no growth of 
any importance during the talking period (for a child of five may 
have the same jaw-length as a man of thirty-seven), the growth 
is enormous during the first months of a child's life : in the case 
of my own child, from 45 mm. a few days after birth to 60 mm. 
at three months old and 75 mm. at eleven months, while the 
average of grown-up men is 99 mm. and of women 93 mm. The 
consequence is that the sounds of the baby are different from 
ours, and that even when they resemble ours the mechanism of 
production may be different from the normal one ; when my son 
during the first weeks said something like la, I was able to see 
distinctly that the tip of the tongue was not at all in the position 
required for our I. This want of congruence between the acoustic 
manners of operation in the infant and the adult no doubt gives 
us the key to many of the difficulties that have puzzled previous 
observers of small children. 

Babbling or crowing begins not earlier than the third week; 
it may be, not till the seventh or eighth week. The first sound 
exercises are to be regarded as muscular exercises pure and simple, 
as is clear from the fact that deaf-mutes amuse themselves with 


them, although they cannot themselves hear them. But the 
moment comes when the hearing child finds a pleasure in hearing 
its own sounds, and a most important step is taken when the little 
one begins to hear a resemblance between the sounds uttered 
by its mother or nurse and its own. The mother will naturally 
answer the baby's syllables by repeating the same, and when the 
baby recognizes the likeness, it secures an inexhaustible source 
of pleasure, and after some time reaches the next stage, when it 
tries itself to imitate what is said to it (generally towards the 
close of the first year). The value of this exercise cannot be 
over-estimated : the more that parents understand how to play 
this game with the baby of saying something and letting the 
baby say it after, however meaningless the syllable-sequences that 
they make the better will be the foundation for the child's later 
acquisition and command of language. 

V. 2. First Sounds. 

It is generally said that the order in which the child learns 
to utter the different sounds depends on their difficulty : the easiest 
sounds are produced first. That is no doubt true in the main ; 
but when -we go into details we find that different writers bring 
forward lists of sounds in different order. All are agreed, however, 
that among the consonants the labials, p, b and m, are early sounds, 
if not the earliest. The explanation has been given that the child 
can see the working of his mother's lips in these sounds and there- 
fore imitates her movements. This implies far too much conscious 
thought on the part of the baby, who utters his ' ma ' or ' mo ' 
before he begins to imitate anything said to him by his surroundings. 
Moreover, it has been pointed out that the child's attention is 
hardly ever given to its mother's mouth, but is steadily fixed 
on her eyes. The real reason is probably that the labial muscles 
used to produce b or m are the same that the baby has exercised 
in sucking the breast or the bottle. It would be interesting to 
learn if blind children also produce the labial sounds first. 

Along with the labial sounds the baby produces many other 
sounds vowel and consonant and in these cases one is certain 
that it has not been able to see how these sounds are produced 
by its mother. Even in the case of the labials we know that 
what distinguishes m from 6, the lowering of the soft palate, and 
6 from p, the vibrations of the vocal chords, is invisible. Some 
of the sounds produced by means of the tongue may be too hard 
to pronounce till the muscles of the tongue have been exercised 
in consequence of the child having begun to eat more solid things 
than milk. 

106 SOUNDS [CH. y 

By the end of the first year the number of sounds which the 
little babbler has mastered is already considerable, and he loves 
to combine long series of the same syllables, dadadada . . ., 
nenenene . . . , bygnbygnbygn . . . , etc. That is a game which 
need not even cease when the child is able to talk actual language. 
It is strange that among an infant's sounds one can often detect 
sounds for instance k, g, h, and uvular r which the child will find 
difficulty in producing afterwards when they occur in real words, 
or which may be unknown to the language which it will some day 
speak. The explanation lies probably in the difference between 
doing a thing in play or without a plan when it is immaterial 
which movement (sound) is made and doing the same thing of 
fixed intention when this sound, and this sound only, is required, 
at a definite point in the syllable, and with this or that particular 
sound before and after. Accordingly, great difficulties come to 
be encountered when the child begins more consciously and syste- 
matically to imitate his elders. Some sounds come without effort 
and may be used incessantly, to the detriment of others which 
the child may have been able previously to produce in play ; and 
a time even comes when the stock of sounds actually diminishes, 
while particular sounds acquire greater precision. Dancing masters, 
singing masters and gymnastic teachers have similar experiences. 
After some lessons the child may seem more awkward than it was 
before the lessons began. 

The ' little language ' which the child makes for itself by 
imperfect imitation of the sounds of its elders seems so arbitrary 
that it may well be compared to the child's first rude drawings 
of men and animals. A Danish boy named Gustav (1.6) 1 called 
himself [dodado] and turned the name Karoline into [nnn]. Other 
Danish children made slcammel into [gramn] or [gap], elefant into 
[vat], Karen into [gaja], etc. A few examples from English 
children: Hilary M. (1.6) called Ireland (her sister) [a'ni], 
Gordon M. (1.10) called Millicent (his sister) [dadu - ]. Tony E. 
(1.11) called his playmate Sheila [dubabud]. 

V. 3. Sound-laws of the Next Stage. 

As the child gets away from the peculiarities of his individual 
' little language,' his speech becomes more regular, and a linguist 
can in many cases see reasons for his distortions of normal words. 
When he replaces one sound by another there is always some 
common element in the formation of the two sounds, which causes 

* In this book the age of a child is indicated by stating the number of 
years and months completed : 1.6 thus means " in the seventh month o f 
the second year," etc. 


a kindred impression on the ear, though we may have difficulty 
in detecting it because we are so accustomed to noticing the 
difference. There is generally a certain system in the sound 
substitutions of children, and in many instances we are justified 
in speaking of ' strictly observed sound-laws.' Let us now look 
at some of these. 

Children in all countries tend to substitute [t] for [k] : both 
sounds are produced by a complete stoppage of the breath for the 
moment by the tongue, the only difference being that it is the 
back of the tongue which acts in one case, and the tip of 
the tongue in the other. A child who substitutes t for k will 
also substitute d for g ; if he says ' tat ' for ' cat ' he will say 
'do' for 'go.' 

R is a difficult sound. Hilary M. (2.0) has no r's in her speech. 
I Initially they become w, as in [wAn] for 'run,' medially between 
! vowels they become I, as in [veli, beli] for ' very, berry,' in conso- 
nantal combinations they are lost, as in [kai, bA/] for ' cry, 
brush.' Tony E. (1.10 to 3.0) for medial r between vowels first 
substituted d, as in [vedi] for ' very,' and later g [vegi] ; similarly 
in [mu'gi] for ' Muriel,' [tsegi] for ' carry ' ; he often dropped 
initial r, e.g. oom for ' room.' It is not unusual for children who 
use w for r in most combinations to say [t/] for tr and [ds] for dr, 
as in ' chee,' 'jawer' for 'tree,' 'drawer.' This illustrates the 
fact that what to us is one sound, and therefore represented in 
writing by one letter, appears to the child's ear as different sounds 
and generally the phonetician will agree with the child that 
there are really differences in the articulation of the sound according 
to position in the syllable and to surroundings, only the child 
exaggerates the dissimilarities, just as we in writing one and the 
same letter exaggerate the similarity. 

The two th sounds offer some difficulties and are often imitated 
as / and v respectively, as in ' frow ' and ' muwer ' for ' throw ' 
and ' mother ' ; others say ' ze ' or ' de ' for ' the.' Hilary M. 
(2.0) has great difficulty with th and s ; th usually becomes [/], 
[be/, ti/, /ri-] for ' Beth,' ' teeth,' ' three ' ; * becomes [/], 
e.g. [fran/i/, firm] for ' Francis,' ' steam ' ; in the same way 
z becomes [5] as in [Ubs, bous] for ' loves,' ' Bowes ' ; sw becomes 
[fw] as in [fwirj, fwrt] for ' swing,' ' sweet.' She drops I in conso- 
nantal combinations, e.g. [krn, kairn, kok, /i'p] for ' clean,' 
'climb,' 'clock,' 'sleep.' 

Sometimes it requires a phonetician's knowledge to understand 
the individual sound-laws of a child. Thus I pick out from some 
specimens given by O'Shea, p. 135f. (girl, 2.9), the following 
words : pell (smell), teeze (sneeze), poke (smoke), tow (snow), and 
formulate the rule : -f- a nasal became the voiceless stop corre- 

108 SOUNDS [CH. v 

spending to the nasal, a kind of assimilation, in which the place 
of articulation and the mouth-closure of the nasals were preserved, 
and the sound was made unvoiced and non-nasal as the a. In 
other combinations m and n were intact. 

Some further faults are illustrated in Tony E.'s [t/buz, pAg, 
pus, taem, pAm, baek, pi'z, nous, ok, es, u 1 ] for clothes, plug, push, 
tram, plum, black, please, nose, clock, yes, you. 

V. 4. Groups o Sounds. 

Even when a sound by itself can be pronounced, the child 
often finds it hard to pronounce it when it forms part of a group 
of sounds. S is often dropped before another consonant, as in 
* tummy ' for ' stomach.' Other examples have already been 
given above. Hilary M. (2.0) had difficulty with Ip and said 
[haepl] for ' help.' She also said [ointan] for ' ointment ' ; 
C. M. L. (2.3) said ' sikkums ' for 'sixpence.' Tony E. (2.0) 
turns grannie into [naegi]. When initial consonant groups are 
simplified, it is generally, though not always, the stop that remains : 
6 instead of bl-, br-, k instead of kr-, sk-, skr-, p instead of pi-, pr- t 
spr-, etc. For the groups occurring medially and finally no general 
rule seems possible. 

V. 5. Mutilations and Reduplications. 

To begin with, the child is unable to master long sequences 
of syllables ; he prefers monosyllables and often emits them singly 
and separated by pauses. Even in words that to us are inseparable 
wholes some children will make breaks between syllables, e.g. 
Shef-field, Ing-land. But more often they will give only part 
of the word, generally the last syllable or syllables ; hence we get 
pet-names like Bet or Beth for Elizabeth and forms like ' tatoes ' 
for potatoes, ' chine ' for machine, ' tina ' for concertina, ' tash * 
for moustache, etc. Hilary M. (1.10) called an express-cart a 
press-cart, bananas and pyjamas nanas and jamas. 

It is not, however, the production of long sequences of syllables 
in itself that is difficult to the child, for in its meaningless babbling 
it may begin very early to pronounce long strings of sounds without 
any break ; but the difficulty is to remember what sounds have 
to be put together to bring about exactly this or that word. We 
grown-up people may experience just the same sort of difficulty 
if after hearing once the long name of a Bulgarian minister or a 
Sanskrit book we are required to repeat it at once. Hence we should 
not wonder at such pronunciations as [pekalout] for petticoat or 
[efelant] for elephant (Beth M., 2.6) ; Hilary M. called a caterpillar 


& pillarcat. Other transpositions are serreval for several and ocken 
for uncle ; cf . also wops for wasp. 

To explain the frequent reduplications found in children's 

language it is not necessary, as some learned authors have done, 

to refer to the great number of reduplicated words in the languages 

of primitive tribes and to see in the same phenomenon in our own 

children an atavistic return to primitive conditions, on the Hackelian 

assumption that the development of each individual has to pass 

rapidly through the same (' phylogenetic ') stages as the whole 

lineage of his ancestors. It is simpler and more natural to refer 

these reduplications to the pleasure always felt in repeating the 

same muscular action until one is tired. The child will repeat 

over and over again the same movements of legs and arms, and 

twe do the same when we wave our hand or a handkerchief or when 

jwe nod our head several times to signify assent, etc. When we 

jaugh we repeat the same syllable consisting of h and a more or 

less indistinct vowel, and when we sing a melody without words 

we are apt to ' reduplicate ' indefinitely. Thus also with the 

little ones. Apart from such words as papa and mamma, to which 

we shall have to revert in another chapter (VIII, 9), children 

will often form words from those of their elders by repeating one 

syllable ; cf. puff-puff, gee-gee. Tracy (p. 132) records pepe for 

'pencil,' kaka for 'Carrie.' For a few weeks (1.11) Hilary M. 

reduplicated whole words, e.g. king-king, ring-ring (i.e. bell), 

water-water. Tony F. (1.10) uses [touto] for his own name. 

Hence pet-names like Dodo ; they are extremely frequent in French 

for instance, Fifine, Lolotte, Lolo, Mimi ; the name Daudet has 

arisen in a similar way from Claudet, a diminutive of Claude. 

It is a similar phenomenon (a kind of partial reduplication) 
when sounds at a distance affect one another, as when Hilary M. 
(2.0) said [gogi] for doggie, [bobin] for Dobbin, [dezman drn] for 
Jesmond Dene, [baikikl] for bicycle, [kekl] for kettle. Tracy (p. 133) 
mentions bopoo for ' bottle,' in which oo stands for the hollow 
sound of syllabic 1. One correspondent mentions whoofing-cough 
for ' whooping-cough ' (where the final sound has crept into the 
Srst word) and chicken-pops for ' chicken-pox.' Some children 
3ay ' aneneme ' for anemone; and in S. L. (4.9) this caused a 
curious confusion during the recent war: "Mother, there must 
be two sorts of anenemies, flowers and Germans." 

Dr. Henry Bradley once told me that his youngest child had 
i difficulty with the name Connie, which was made alternatingly 
.toni] and [ko^i], in both cases with two consonants articulated 
U the same point. Similar instances are mentioned in German 
oooks on children's language, thus gigarr for ' zigarre,' baibift 

110 SOUNDS [CH. v 

for ' bleistift,' autobobil (Meringer), 1 fotofafieren (Stern), ambam 
for ' armband,' dan for ' dame,' pap for ' patte ' (Ronjat). I 
have given many Danish examples in my Danish book. Gram- 
mont's child (see Melanges linguistiques offerts a A. Meillet, 1902) 
carried through these changes in a most systematic way. 

V. 6. Correction. 

The time comes when the child corrects his mistakes where 
it said ' tat ' it now says ' cat.' Here there are two possibilities 
which both seem to occur in actual life. One is that the child 
hears the correct sound some time before he is able to imitate it 
correctly ; he will thus still say t for k, though he may in some 
way object to other people saying ' turn ' for ' come.' Passy 
relates how a little French girl would say tosson both for garcon 
and cochon ; but she protested when anybody else said " C'est 
un petit cochon " in speaking about a boy, or vice versa. Such 
a child, as soon as it can produce the new sound, puts it correctly 
into all the places where it is required. This, I take it, is the 
ordinary procedure. Frans (my own boy) could not pronounce 
h and said an, on for the Danish pronouns han, hun ; but when 
he began to pronounce this sound, he never misplaced it (2.4). 

The other possibility is that the child learns how to pronounce 
the new sound at a time when its own acoustic impression is not 
yet quite settled ; in that case there will be a period during which 
his use of the new sound is uncertain and fluctuating. When 
parents are in too great a hurry to get a child out of some false 
pronunciation, they may succeed in giving it a new sound, but 
the child will tend to introduce it in places where it does not belong. 
On the whole, it seems therefore the safest plan to leave it to the 
child itself to discover that its sound is not the correct one. 

Sometimes a child will acquire a sound or a sound combination 
correctly and then lose it till it reappears a few months later. 
In an English family where there was no question of the influence 
of h-lesa servants, each child in succession passed through an h-less 
period, and one of the children, after pronouncing h correctly, 
lost the use of it altogether for two or three months. I have 
had similar experiences with Danish children. S. L. (ab. 2) said 
' bontin ' for bonnet ; but five months earlier she had said bonnet 

The path to perfection is not always a straight one. Tony E. 
in order to arrive at the correct pronunciation of please, passed 
through the following stages : (1) [br], (2) [blr], (3) [pi'z], 

1 An American child said autonobile [otenobH] with partial assimilation 
of m to the point-stop t. 


(4) [pwi'5], (5) [beisk, meis, mais] and several other impossible 
forms. Tracy (p. 139) gives the following forms through which 
the boy A. (1.5) had to pass before being able to say pussy : pooheh, 
poofie, poopoohie, poofee. A French child had four forms [rueni, 
peti, meti, mesi] before being able to say merci correctly (Gram- 
mont). A Danish child passed through bejab and vamb before 
pronouncing svamp (' sponge '), etc. 

It is certain that all this while the little brain is working, and 
even consciously working, though at first it has not sufficient 
command of speech to say anything about it. Meringer says that 
children do not practise, but that their new acquisitions of sounds 
happen at once without any visible preparation. He may be right 
in the main with regard to the learning of single sounds, though 
even there I incline to doubt the possibility of a universal rule ; 
but Ronjat (p. 55) is certainly right as against Meringer with 
regard to the way in which children learn new and difficult com- 
binations. Here they certainly do practise, and are proudly 
conscious of the happy results of their efforts. When Frans (2.11) 
mastered the combination fl, he was very proud, and asked his 
mother: " Mother, can you say fit/vel " ; then he came to me and 
told me that he could say bluse smdflue, and when asked whether 
he could say blad, he answered: "No, not yet; Frans cannot 
'say b-lad" (with a little interval between the b and the I). Five 
'Weeks later he said: "Mother, won't you play upon the klaver 
(piano) ? " and after a little while, " Frans can say kla so well." 
: About the same time he first mispronounced the word manchetter, 
and then (when I asked what he was saying, without telling him 
'that anything was wrong) he gave it the correct sound, and I 
heard him afterwards in the adjoining room repeat the word to 
himself in a whisper. 

How well children observe sounds is again seen by the way 
in which they will correct their elders if they give a pronunciation 
to which they are not accustomed for instance, in a verse they 
have learnt by heart. Beth M (2.6) was never satisfied with her 
parents' pronunciation of " What will you buy me when you get 
there ? " She always insisted on their gabbling the first words 
as quickly as they could and then coming out with an emphatic 

V. 7. Tone. 

As to the differences in the tone of a voice, even a baby shows 
by his expression that he can distinguish clearly between what 
is said to him lovingly and what sharply, a long time before he 
understands a single word of what is said. Many children are 

112 SOUNDS [CH. v 

able at a very early age to hit off the exact note in which some- 
thing is said or sung. Here is a story of a boy of more advanced 
age. In Copenhagen he had had his hair cut by a Swedish lady 
and did not like it. When he travelled with his mother to Norway, 
as soon as he entered the house, he broke out with a scream : 
" Mother, I hope I'm not going to have my hair cut ? " He had 
noticed the Norwegian intonation, which is very like the Swedish, 
and it brought an unpleasant association of ideas. 


5 1. Introductory. 2. First Period. 3. Father and Mother. 4. The 
Delimitation of Meaning. 5. Numerals. Time. 6. Various Diffi- 
culties. 7. Shifters. 8. Extent of Vocabulary. 9. Summary. 

VL 1. Introductory. 

IN the preceding chapter, in order to simplify matters, we have 
dealt with sounds only, as if they were learnt by themselves and 
independently of the meanings attached to tl em. But that, of 
course, is only an abstraction : to the child, as veil as to the 
grown-up, the two elements, the outer, phonetic ele nent, and the 
inner element, the meaning, of a word are indissoiubly connected, 
and the child has no interest, or very little interest, in trying to 
imitate the sounds of its parents except just in so far as these 
mean something. That words have a meaning, the child will 
begin to perceive at a very early age. Parents may of course 
deceive themselves and attribute to the child a more complete 
and exact understanding of speech than the child is capable of. 
That the child looks at its father when it hears the word ' father,' 
may mean at first nothing more than that it follows its mother's 
glance ; but naturally in this way it is prepared for actually asso- 
ciating the idea of ' father ' with the sound. If the child learns 
the feat of lifting its arms when it is asked " How big is the boy ? " 
it is not to be supposed that the single words of the sentence are 
understood, or that the child has any conception of size ; he only 
knows that when this series of sounds is said he is admired if he 
lifts his arms up : and so the sentence as a whole has the effect 
of a word of command. A dog has the same degree of under- 
standing. Hilary M. (1.0), when you said to her at any time the 
refrain '' He greeted me so," from " Here come three knights from 
Spain," would bow and salute with her hand, as she had seen some 
children doing it when practising the song. 

The understanding of what is said always precedes the power 
of saying the same thing oneself often precedes it for an extra- 
ordinarily long time. One father notes that his little daughter 
of a year and seven months brings what is wanted and understands 
questions while she cannot say a word. It often happens that 

8 113 

114 WORDS [CH. vi 

parents some fine day come to regret what they have said in the 
presence of a child without suspecting how much it understands. 
" Little pitchers have long ears." 

One can, however, easily err in regard to the range and cer- 
tainty of a child's understanding. The Swiss philologist Tappolet 
noticed that his child of six months, when he said " Where is the 
window ? " made vague movements towards the window. He 
made the experiment of repeating his question in French with 
the same intonation as in German, and the child acted just as it 
had done before. It is, properly speaking, only when the child 
begins to talk that we can be at all sure what it has really under- 
stood, and even then it may at times be difficult to sound the 
depths of the child's conception. 

The child's acquisition of the meaning of words is truly a highly 
complicated affair. How many things are comprehended under 
one word ? The answer is not easy in all cases. The single Danish 
word tceppe covers all that is expressed in English by carpet, rug, 
blanket, counterpane, curtain (theatrical). And there is still 
more complication when we come to abstract ideas. The child 
has somehow to find out for himself with regard to his own lan- 
guage what ideas are considered to hang together and so come 
under the same word. He hears the word ' chair ' applied to 
a particular chair, then to another chair that perhaps looks to 
him totally different, and again to a third : and it becomes his 
business to group these together. 

What Stern tells about his own boy is certainly exceptional, 
perhaps unique. The boy ran to a door and said das ? (' That ? ' 
his way of asking the name of a thing). They told him ' tiir.' 
He then went to two other doors in the room, and each time the 
performance was repeated. He then did the same with the seven 
chairs in the room. Stern says, "As he thus makes sure that 
the objects that are alike to his eye and to his sense of touch have 
also the same name, he is on his way to general conceptions." 
We should, however, be wary of attributing general ideas to little 

VI. 2. First Period. 

In the first period we meet the same phenomena in the child's 
acquisition of word-meanings that we found in his acquisition of 
sounds. A child develops conceptions of his own which are as 
unintelligible and strange to the uninitiated as his sounds. 

Among the child's first passions are animals and pictures of 
animals, but for a certain time it is quite arbitrary what animals 
are classed together under a particular name. A child of nine 


months noticed that his grandfather's dog said ' bow-wow ' and 
fancied that anything not human could say (and therefore should 
be called) bow-wow pigs and horses included. A little girl of 
two called a horse he (Danish hest) and divided the animal kingdom 
mto two groups, (1) horses, including all four-footed things, even 
[a tortoise, and (2) fishes (pronounced iz), including all that moved 
without use of feet, for example, birds and flies. A boy of 1.8 
saw a picture of a Danish priest in a ruff and was told that it was 
a prcest, which he rendered as beep. Afterwards seeing a picture 
.of an aunt with a white collar which recalled the priest's ruff, he 
rsaid again beep, and this remained the name of the aunt, and even 
of another aunt, who was called ' other baep.' These transfer- 
ences are sometimes extraordinary. A boy who had had a pig 
drawn for him, the pig being called of, at the age of 1.6 used of 

(1) for a pig, (2) for drawing a pig, (3) for writing in general. 
Such transferences may seem very absurd, but are not more 

so than some transferences occurring in the language of grown-up 
persons. The word Tripos passed from the sense of a three-legged 
stool to the man who sat on a three-legged stool to dispute with 
candidates for degrees at Cambridge. Then, as it was the duty 
of Mr. Tripos also to provide comic verses, these were called trinps 
verses, such verses being printed under that name till very near 
'the end of the nineteenth century, though Mr. Tripos himself had 
disappeared long ago. And as the examination list was printed 
on the back of these verses, it was called the Tripos list, and it 
was no far cry to saying of a successful candidate, " he stands 
high on the Tripos," which now came to mean the examination 

But to return to the classifications in the minds of the children. 
Hilary M. (1.6 to 2.0) used the word daisy (1) of the flower itself, 

(2) of any flower, (3) of any conventional flower in a pattern, 
(4) of any pattern. One of the first words she said was colour 
(1.4), and she got into a way of saying it when anything striking 
attracted her attention. Originally she heard the word of a 
bright patch of colour in a picture. The word was still in use 
at the age of two. For some months anything that moved was 
a fly, every man was a soldier, everybody that was not a man 
was a baby. S. L. (1.8) used bing (1) for a door, (2) for bricks 
or building with bricks. The connexion is through the bang 
of a door or a tumbling castle of bricks, but the name was trans- 
ferred to the objects. It is curious that at 1.3 she had the word 
bang for anything dropped, but not bing ; at 1.8 she had both, 
bing being specialized as above. From books about children's 
language I quote two illustrations. Ronjat's son used the word 
papement, which stands for ' kaffemensch,' in speaking about the 

116 WORDS [CH. vi 

grocer's boy who brought coffee ; but as he had a kind of uniform 
with a flat cap, papement was also used of German and Russian 
officers in the illustrated papers. Hilde Stern (1.9) used bichu 
for drawer or chest of drawers ; it originated in the word bucher 
(books), which was said when her picture-books were taken out 
of the drawer. 

A warning is, however, necessary. When a grown-up person 
says that a child uses the same word to denote various things, 
he is apt to assume that the child gives a word two or three definite 
meanings, as he does. The process is rather in this way. A child 
has got a new toy, a horse, and at the same time has heard its 
elders use the word ' horse,' which it has imitated as well as it 
can. It now associates the word with the delight of playing with 
its toy. If the next day it says the same sound, and its friends 
give it the horse, the child gains the experience that the sound 
brings the fulfilment of its wish : but if it sets its eye on a china 
cow and utters the same sound, the father takes note that the 
sound also denotes a cow, while for the child it is perhaps a mere 
experiment " Could not I get my wish for that nice thing fulfilled 
in the same way ? " If it succeeds, the experiment may very well 
be repeated, and the more or less faulty imitation of the word 

* horse ' thus by the co-operation of those around it may become 
also firmly attached to ' cow.' 

When Elsa B. (1.10), on seeing the stopper of a bottle in the 
garden, came out with the word ' beer,' it would be rash to conclude 
(as her father did) that the word ' beer ' to her meant a ' stopper ' : 
all we know is that her thoughts had taken that direction, and 
that some time before, on seeing a stopper, she had heard the 
word ' beer.' 

Parents sometimes unconsciously lead a child into error about 
the use of words. A little nephew of mine asked to taste his 
father's beer, and when refused made so much to-do that the 
father said, " Come, let us have peace in the house." Next day, 
under the same circumstances, the boy asked for ' peace in the 
house,' and this became the family name for beer. Not infre- 
quently what is said on certain occasions is taken by the child to 
be the name of some object concerned ; thus a sniff or some sound 
imitating it may come to mean a flower, and ' hurrah ' a flag. 
S. L. from an early age was fond of flowers, and at 1.8 used 

* pretty ' or ' pretty-pretty ' as a substantive instead of the word 
'flower,' which she learnt at 1.10. 

I may mention here that analogous mistakes may occur when 
missionaries or others write down words from foreign languages 
with which they are not familiar. In the oldest list of Green- 
landic words (of 1587) there is thus a word panygmah given with 


tthe signification ' needle ' ; as a matter of fact it means ' my 
daughter's ' : the Englishman pointed at the needle, but the 
Eskimo thought he wanted to know whom it belonged to. In an 
old list of words in the now extinct Polabian language we find 
\*' scumbe, yesterday, subuda, to-day, janidiglia, to-morrow " : the 
questions were put on a Saturday, and the Slav answered accord- 
ingly, for subuta (the same word as Sabbath) means Saturday, 
ekumpe ' fasting-day,' and ja nedila ' it is Sunday.' 

According to O'Shea (p. 131) " a child was greatly impressed 
with the horns of a buck the first time he saw him. The father 
used the term ' sheep ' several times while the creature was being 
inspected, and it was discovered afterwards that the child had 
made the association between the word and the animal's horns, 
so now sheep signifies primarily horns, whether seen in pictures 
or in real life." It is clear that mistakes of that kind will happen 
more readily if the word is said singly than when it is embodied 
in whole connected sentences : the latter method is on the whole 
preferable for many reasons. 

VL 3. Father and Mother. 

A child is often faced by some linguistic usage which obliges 
him again and again to change his notions, widen them, narrow 
them, till he succeeds in giving words the same range of meaning 
that his elders give them. 

Frequently, perhaps most frequently, a word is at first for 
the child a proper name. ' Wood ' means not a wood in general, 
but the particular picture which has been pointed out to the child 
in the dining-room. The little girl who calls her mother's black 
muff ' muff,' but refuses to transfer the word to her own white 
one, is at the same stage. Naturally, then, the word father when 
first heard is a proper name, the name of the child's own father. 
But soon it must be extended to other individuals who have some- 
thing or other in common with the child's father. One child will 
use it of all men, another perhaps of all men with beards, while 
' lady ' is applied to all pictures of faces without beards ; a third 
will apply the word to father, mother and grandfather. When 
the child itself applies the word to another man it is soon corrected, 
but at the same time it cannot avoid hearing another child call 
a strange man ' father ' or getting to know that the gardener is 
Jack's ' father,' etc. The word then comes to mean to the child 
' a grown-up person who goes with or belongs to a little one,' 
and he will say, " See, there goes a dog with his father." Or, he 
comes to know that the cat is the kittens' father, and the dog the 
puppies' father, and next day asks, " Wasps, are they the flies' 

118 WORDS [CH. vi 

father, or are they perhaps their mother ? " (as Frans did, 4.10). 
Finally, by such guessing and drawing conclusions he gains full 
understanding of the word, and is ready to make acquaintance 
later with its more remote applications, as ' The King is the 
father of his people ; Father O'Flynn ; Boyle was the father of 
chemistry,' etc. 

Difficulties are caused to the child when its father puts him- 
self on the child's plane and calls his wife ' mother ' just as he 
calls his own mother ' mother,' though at other moments the 
child hears him call her ' grandmother ' or ' grannie.' Professor 
Sturtevant writes to me that a neighbour child, a girl of about 
five years, called out to him, " I saw your girl and your mother," 
meaning ' your daughter and your wife.' In many families the 
words ' sister ' (' Sissie ') or ' brother ' are used constantly instead 
of his or her real name. Here we see the reason why so often such 
names of relations change their meaning in the history of lan- 
guages ; G. vetter probably at first meant ' father's brother,' as 
it corresponds to Latin patruus ; G. base, from ' father's sister,' 
came to mean also 'mother's sister,' 'niece' and 'cousin.' The 
word that corresponds etymologically to our mother has come 
to mean ' wife ' or ' woman ' in Lithuanian and ' sister ' in 

The same extension that we saw in the case of ' father ' now 
may take place with real proper names. Tony E. (3.5), when a 
fresh charwoman came, told his mother not to have this Mary : 
the last charwoman's name was Mary. 1 In exactly the same way 
a Danish child applied the name of their servant, Ingeborg, as 
a general word for servant : " Auntie's Ingeborg is called Ann," 
etc., and a German girl said viele Augusten for ' many girls.' This, 
of course, is the way in which doll has come to mean a ' toy baby,' 
and we use the same extension when we say of a statesman that 
he is no Bismarck, etc. 

VI. 4. The Delimitation of Meaning. 

The association of a word with its meaning is accomplished 
for the child by a series of single incidents, and as many words 
are understood only by the help of the situation, it is natural that 
the exact force of many of them is not seized at once. A boy of 
4.10, hearing that his father had seen the King, inquired, "Has 
he a head at both ends ? " his conception of a king being derived 
from playing-cards. Another child was born on what the Danes 
call Constitution Day, the consequence being that he confused 
birthday and Constitution Day, and would speak of " my Consti- 
Cf. Beach-la-Mar, below. Ch. XII 1. 


tution Day," and then his brother and sister also began to talk of 
their Constitution Day. 

Hilary M. (2.0) and Murdoch D. (2.6) used dinner, breakfast 
and tea interchangeably the words might be translated ' meal.' 
(Other more or less similar confusions may be mentioned here. 
Tony F. (2.8) used the term sing for (1) reading, (2) singing, (3) 
any game in which his elders amused him. Hilary said indifferently, 
[' Daddy, sing a story three bears,' and ' Daddy, tell a story three 
bears.'' She cannot remember which is knife and which is fork. 
Beth M. (2.6) always used can't when she meant won't. It meant 
[simply refusal to do what she did not want to. 

VI. 5. Numerals. Time. 

It is interesting to watch the way in which arithmetical notions 
grow in extent and clearness. Many children learn very early 
to say one, two, which is often said to them when they learn how 
to walk ; but no ideas are associated with these syllables. In the 
same way many children are drilled to say three when the parents 
begin with one, two. ete. The idea of plurality is gradually deve- 
loped, but a child may very well answer two when asked how many 
fingers papa has ; Frans used the combinations some-two and 
some-three to express ' more than one ' (2.4). At the age of 2.11 
; he was very fond of counting, but while he always got the first 
four numbers right, he would skip over 5 and 7 ; and when asked 
Ito count the apples in a bowl, he would say rapidly 1-2-3-4, even 
lif there were only three, or stop at 3, even if there were five or 
more. At 3.4 he counted objects as far as 10 correctly, but might 
easily pass from 11 to 13, and if the things to be counted were not 
placed in a row he was apt to bungle by moving his fingers irregu- 
larly from one to another. When he was 3.8 he answered the 
question " What do 2 and 2 make ? " quite correctly, but next day 
to the same question he answered " Three," though in a doubtful 
tone of voice. This was in the spring, and next month I noted : 
" His sense of number is evidently weaker than it was : the open- 
air life makes him forget this as well as all the verses he knew by 
heart in the winter." WTien the next winter came his counting 
'exercises a^ain amused him, but at first he was in a fix as before 

D ' 

about anynu mbers after 6, although he could repeat the numbers 
till 10 without a mistake. He was fond of doing sums, and had 
initiated this game himself by asking : " Mother, if I have two 
apples and get one more, haven't I then three ?" His sense of 
numbers was so abstract that he was caught by a tricky question : 
"If you have two eyes and one nose, how many ears have you ? " 
He answered at once, " Three ! " A child thus seems to think in 

120 WORDS [CH. vi 

abstract numbers, and as he learns his numbers as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., 
not as one pear, two pears, three pears, one may well be skeptical 
about the justification for the recommendation made by many 
pedagogues that at an early stage of the school-life a child should 
learn to reckon with concrete things rather than with abstract 

A child will usually be familiar with the sound of higher 
numerals long before it has any clear notion of what they mean. 
Frans (3.6) said, " They are coming by a train that is called four 
thirty-four," and (4.4) he asked, " How much is twice hundred ? 
Is that a thousand ? " 

A child's ideas of time are necessarily extremely vague to 
begin with ; it cannot connect very clear or very definite notions 
with the expressions it constantly hears others employ, such as 
4 last Sunday,' ' a week ago/ or ' next year.' The other day I 
heard a little girl say : " This is where we sat next time" evidently 
meaning ' last time.' All observers of children mention the 
frequent confusion of words like to-morrow and yesterday, and the 
linguist remembers that Gothic gistradagis means ' to-morrow,' 
though it corresponds formally with E. yesterday and G. gestern. 

VI. 6. Various Difficulties. 

Very small children will often say up both when they want 
to be taken up and when they want to be put down on the floor. 
This generally means nothing else than that they have not yet 
learnt the word down, and up to them simply is a means to obtain 
a change of position. In the same way a German child used hut 
auf for having the hat taken off as well as put on, but Meumann 
rightly interprets this as an nndifferentiated desire to have some- 
thing happen with the hat. But even with somewhat more 
advanced children there are curious confusions. 

Hilary M. (2.0) is completely baffled by words of opposite mean- 
ing. She will say, " Daddy, my pinny is too hot ; I must warm it 
at the fire." She goes to the fire and comes back, saying, " That's 
better ; it's quite cool now." (The same confusion of hot and cold 
was also reported in the case of one Danish and one German child ; 
cf. also Tracy, p. 134.) One morning while dressing she said, 
" What a nice windy day," and an hour or two later, before 
she had been out, " What a nasty windy day." She confuses 
good and naughty completely Tony F. (2.5) says, " Turn the 
dark out." 

Sometimes a mere accidental likeness may prove too much 
for the child. When Hilary M. had a new doll (2.0) her mother 
said to her: " And is that your son ?" Hilary was puzzled, and 


locking out of the window at the sun, said : " No, that's my sun." 
It was very difficult to set her out of this confusion. 1 Her sister 
Beth (3.8), looking at a sunset, said : " That's what you call a sun- 
set : where Ireland (her sister) is (at school) it's a summerset." 
About the same time, when staying at Longwood Farm, she said : 
*' I suppose if the trees were cut down it would be Shortivood 
Farm ? " 

An English friend writes to me : "I misunderstood the text, 
* And there fell from his eyes as it were scales,' as I knew the word 
scales only in the sense ' balances.' The phenomenon seemed to 
me a strange one, but I did not question that it occurred, any 
more than I questioned other strange phenomena recounted in 
the Bible. In the lines of the hymn 

Teach me to live that I may dread 
The grave as little as my bed 

I supposed that the words ' as little as my bed ' were descriptive 
of my future grave, and that it was my duty according to the 
hymn to fear the grave." 

Words with several meanings may cause children much diffi- 
culty. A Somerset child said, " Moses was not a good boy, and 
his mother smacked 'un and smacked 'un and smacked 'un till 
she couldn't do it no more, and then she put 'un in the ark of 
bulrushes." This puzzled the teacher till he looked at the passage 
in Exodus : " And when she could hide him no longer, she laid 
him in an ark of bulrushes." Here, of course, we have technically 
two different words hide ; but to the child the difficulty is 
practically as great where we have what is called one and the 
same word with two distinct meanings, or when a word is used 

The word ' child ' means two different things, which in some 
languages are expressed by two distinct words. I remember my 
own astonishment at the age of nine when I heard my godmother 
talk of her children. " But you have no children." " Yes, Clara 
and Eliza." I knew them, of course, but they were grown up. 

Take again the word old. A boy knew that he was three years, 
but could not be induced to say ' three years old ' ; no, he is three 
years new, and his father too is new, as distinct from his grand- 
mother, who he knows is old. A child asked, " Why have 
grand dukes and grand pianos got the same name ? " (Glen- 
conner, p. 21). 

When Frans was told (4.4) " Your eyes are running," he was 
much astonished, and asked, " Are they running away ? " 

Cf. below on the disappearance of the word son because it sounds like 
un (Ch. XV. 7). 

122 WORDS [CH. vi 

Sometimes a child knows a word first in some secondary sense. 
When a country child first came to Copenhagen and saw a soldier, 
he said, " There is a tin-soldier " (2.0). Stern has a story about 
his daughter who was taken to the country and wished to pat 
the backs of the pigs, but was checked with the words, " Pigs 
always lie in dirt," when she was suddenly struck with a new idea ; 
*' Ah, that is why they are called pigs, because they are so dirty : 
but what would people call them if they didn't lie in the dirt ? " 
History repeats itself : only the other day a teacher wrote to me 
that one of his pupils had begun his essay with the words : " Pigs 
are rightly called thus, for they are such swine." 

Words of similar sound are apt to be confused. Some children 
have had trouble till mature years with soldier and shoulder, 
hassock and cassock, diary and dairy. Lady Glenconner writes : 
" They almost invariably say ' lemon ' [for melon], and if they 
make an effort to be more correct they still mispronounce it. 
* Don't say melling.' ' Very well, then, niellum.' " Among other 
confusions mentioned in her book I may quote Portugal for ' pur- 
gatory,' King Solomon's three hundred Columbines, David and 
his great friend Johnson, Cain and Mabel all of them showing 
how words from spheres beyond the ordinary ken of children are 
assimilated to more familiar ones. 

Schuchardt has a story of a little coloured boy in the West 
Indies who said, " It's three hot in this room " : he had heard too= 
two and literally wanted to ' go one better.' According to Mr. 
James Payne, a boy for years substituted for the words ' Hallowed 
be Thy name ' ' Harold be Thy name.' Many children imagine 
that there is a pole to mark where the North Pole is, and even 
(like Helen Keller) that polar bears climb the Pole. 

This leads us naturally to what linguists call ' popular ety- 
mology ' which is very frequent with children in all countries. 
I give a few examples from books. A four-year-old boy had heard 
several times about his nurse's neuralgia, and finally said : "I 
don't think it's new ralgia, I call it old ralgia." In this way 
anchovies are made into hamchovies, whirlwind into worldwind, and 
holiday into hollorday, a day to holloa. Professor Sturtevant 
writes : A boy of six or seven had frequently had his ear irrigated; 
when similar treatment was applied to his nose, he said that he 
had been ' nosigated ' he had evidently given his own inter- 
pretation to the first syllable of irrigate. 

There is an element of ' popular etymology ' in the following 
joke which was made by one of the Glenconner children when 
four years old : "I suppose you wag along in the wagonette, the 
landau lands you at the door, and you sweep off in the brougham " 
(pronounced broom). 

; 7] SHIFTERS 123 

VI. 7. Shifters. 

A class of words which presents grave difficulty to children 
are those whose meaning differs according to the situation, so 
; that the child hears them now applied to one thing and now to 
i another. That was the case with words like 'father,' and 
['mother.' Another such word is 'enemy.' When Frans (4.5) 
I played a war-game with Eggert, he could not get it into his head 
(that he was Eggert 's enemj* : no, it was only Eggert who was the 
i;enemy. A stronger case still is 'home.' When a child was asked 
iif his grandmother had been at home, and answered : " No, grand- 
I mother was at grandfather's," it is clear that for him ' at home ' 
meant merely ' at my home.' Such words may be called shifters. 
.When Frans (3.6) heard it said that ' the one ' (glove) was as 
good as ' the other,' he asked, "Which is the one, and which is the 
other ? " a question not easy to answer. 

The most important class of shifters are the personal pro- 
nouns. The child hears the word ' I ' meaning ' Father,' then 
again meaning ' Mother,' then again ' Uncle Peter,' and so on 
unendingly in the most confusing manner. Many people realize 
the difficulty thus presented to the child, and to obviate it will 
speak of themselves in the third person as ' Father ' or ' Grannie ' 
jor ' Mary,' and instead of saying ' you ' to the child, speak of it 
by its name. The child's understanding of what is said is thus 
facilitated for the moment : but on the other hand the child in 
.this way hears these little words less frequently and is slower in 
'mastering them. 

If some children soon learn to say ' I ' while others speak 
of themselves by their name, the difference is not entirely due 
to the different mental powers of the children, but must be 
largely attributed to their elders' habit of addressing them by 
their name or by the pronouns. But Germans would not be 
Germans, and philosophers would not be philosophers, if they did 
not make the most of the child's use of 'I,' in which they see 
the first sign of self-consciousness. The elder Fichte, we are told, 
used to celebrate not his son's birthday, but the day on which he 
first spoke of himself as ' I.' The sober truth is, I take it, that 
a boy who speaks of himself as ' Jack ' can have just as full and 
strong a perception of himself as opposed to the rest of the world 
as one who has learnt the little linguistic trick of saying ' I.' 
But this does not suit some of the great psychologists, as seen 
from the following quotation : " The child uses no pronouns ; it 
speaks of itself in the third person, because it has no idea of its 
' I ' (Ego) nor of its ' Not-I,' hecause it knows nothing of itself 
nor of others." 

124 WORDS [CH. vi 

It is not an uncommon case of confusion for a child to use 
* you ' and * your ' instead of * I,' * me,' and ' mine.' The child 
has noticed that ' will you have ? ' means ' will Jack have ? ' so 
that he looks on * you ' as synonymous with his own name. In 
some children this confusion may last for some months. It is 
in some cases connected with an inverted word-order, ' do you ' 
meaning ' I do ' an instance of ' echoism ' (see below). Some- 
times he will introduce a further complication by using the per- 
sonal pronoun of the third person, as though he had started the 
sentence with ' Jack ' then ' you have his coat ' means ' I have 
my coat.' He may even speak of the person addressed as ' I.' 
' Will I tell a story ? ' = ' Will you tell a story ? ' Frans was 
liable to use these confused forms between the ages of two and 
two and a-half, and I had to quicken his acquaintance with 
the right usage by refusing to understand him when he used 
the wrong. Beth M. (2.6) was very jealous about her elder 
sister touching any of her property, and if the latter sat on 
her chair, she would shriek out : " That's your chair ; that's 
your chair." 

The forms / and me, are a common source of difficulty to 
English children. Both Tony E. (2.7 to 3.0) and Hilary M. (2.0) 
use my for me ; it is apparently a kind of blending of me and / ; 
e.g. " Give Hilary medicine, make my better," " Maggy is looking 
at my" " Give it my." See also O'Shea, p. 81 : ' my want to do 
this or that ; my feel bad ; that is my pencil ; take my to bed.' 

His and her are difficult to distinguish : *' An ill lady, his legs 
were bad " (Tony E., 3.3). 

C. M. L. (about the end of her second year) constantly used 
wour and wours for our and ours, the connexion being with we, as 
' your ' with you. In exactly the same way many Danish children 
say vos for os on account of vi. But all this really falls under our 
next chapter. 

VI. 8. Extent ol Vocabulary. 

The number of words which the child has at command is con- 
stantly increasing, but not uniformly, as the increase is affected 
by the child's health and the new experiences which life presents 
to him. In the beginning it is tolerably easy to count the words 
the child uses ; later it becomes more difficult, as there are times 
when his command of speech grows with astonishing rapidity. 
There is great difference between individual children. Statistics 
have often been given of the extent of a child's vocabulary at 
different ages, or of the results of comparing the vocabularies of 
a number of children. 


An American child who was closely observed by his mother, 
Mrs. Winfield S. Hall, had in the tenth month 3 words, in the 
jleventh 12, in the twelfth 24, in the thirteenth 38, in the fourteenth 
, in the fifteenth 106, in the sixteenth 199, and in the seventeenth 
>32 words (Child Study Monthly, March 1897). During the first 
nonth after the same boy was six years old, slips of paper and 
Dencils were distributed over the house and practically every- 
.hing which the child said was written down. After two or three 
lays these were collected and the words were put under their 
espective letters in a book kept for that purpose. New sets of 
oapers were put in their places and other lists made. In addition 
;o this, the record of his life during the past year was examined 
md all of his words not already listed were added. In this way 
lis summer vocabulary was obtained ; conversations on certain 
/opics were also introduced to give him an opportunity to use 
voids relating to such topics. The list is printed in the Journal 
if Childhood and Adolescence, January 1902, and is well worth 
ooking through. It contains 2,688 words, apart from proper 
lames and numerals. No doubt the child was really in command 
jf words beyond that total. 

This list perhaps is exceptional on account of the care with 
vhich it was compiled, but as a rule I am afraid that it is not wise 
o attach much importance to these tables of statistics. One is 
generally left in the dark whether the words counted are those 
-hat the child has understood, or those that it has actually used 
two entirely different things. The passive or receptive know- 
edge of a language always goes far beyond the active or 

One also gets the impression that the observers have often 
;ounted up words without realizing the difficulties involved. What 
s to be counted as a word ? Are /, me, we, ws one word or four ? 
"s teacup a new word for a child who already knows tea and cup ? 
^nd so for all compounds. Is box (= a place at a theatre) the same 
vord as 602; (= workbox) ? Are the two thats in ' that man that you 
ee ' two words or one ? It is clear that the process of counting 
nvolves so much that is arbitrary and uncertain that very little 
:an be built on the statistics arrived at. 

It is more interesting perhaps to determine what words at 
i given age a child does not know, or rather does not understand 
vhen he hears them or when they occur in his reading. I have 
nyself collected such lists, and others have been given me by 
-eachers, who have been astonished at words which their classes 
lid not understand. A teacher can never be too cautious about 
vssuming linguistic knowledge in his pupils and this applies not 
>nly to foreign words, about which all teachers are on tke alert, 

126 WORDS [CH. vi 

but also to what seem to be quite everyday words of the language 
of the country. 

In connexion with the growth of vocabulary one may ask 
how many words are possessed by the average grown-up man ? 
Max Muller in his Lectures stated on the authority of an English 
clergyman that an English farm labourer has only about three 
hundred words at command. This is the most utter balderdash, 
but nevertheless it has often been repeated, even by such an 
authority on psychology as Wundt. A Danish boy can easily 
learn seven hundred English words in the first year of his study 
of the language and are we to believe that a grown Englishman, 
even of the lowest class, has no greater stock than such a beginner ? 
If you go through the list of 2,000 to 3,000 words used by the Ameri- 
can boy of six referred to above, you will easily convince yourself 
that they would far from suffice for the rudest labourer. A Swedish 
dialectologist, after a minute investigation, found that the vocabu- 
lary of Swedish peasants amounted to at least 26.000 words, 
and his view has been confirmed by other investigators. This 
conclusion is not invalidated by the fact that Shakespeare in his 
works uses only about 20,000 words and Milton in his poems 
only about 8,000. It is easy to see what a vast number of words 
of daily life are seldom or never required by a poet, especially 
a poet like Milton, whose works are on elevated subjects. The 
words used by Zola or Kipling or Jack London would no doubt 
far exceed those used by Shakespeare and Milton. 1 

VI. 9. Summary. 

To sum up, then. There are only very few words that are 
explained to the child, and so long as it is quite small it will not 
even understand the explanations that might be given. Some it 
learns because, when the word is used, the object is at the same 
time pointed at, but most words it can only learn by drawing 
conclusions about their meaning from the situation in which they 
arise or from the context in which they are used. These con- 
clusions, however, are very uncertain, or they may be correct for 
the particular occasion and not hold good on some other, to the 
child's mind quite similar, occasion. Grown-up people are in the 
same position with regard to words they do not know, but which 
they come across in a book or newspaper, e.g. demise. The mean- 
ings of many words are at the same time extraordinarily vague 
and yet so strictly limited (at least in some respects) that the least 
deviation is felt as a mistake. Moreover, the child often learns 
a secondary or figurative meaning of a word before its simple 
1 Cf. the fuller treatment of this question in GS ch. ii. 

9] SUMMARY 127 

meaning. But gradually a high degree of accuracy is obtained, 
the fittest meanings surviving that is (in this connexion) those 
that agree best with those of the surrounding society. And thus 
the individual is merged in society, and the social character of 
language asserts itself through the elimination of everything that 
is the exclusive property of one person only. 


1. Introductory. 2. Substantives and Adjectives. 3. Verbs. 4. De- 
grees of Consciousness. 5. Word-formation. 6. Word-division. 
7. Sentences. 8. Negation and Question. 9. Prepositions and 

VH. 1. Introductory. 

To learn a language it is not enough to know so many words. 
They must be connected according to the particular laws of the 
particular language. No one tells the child that the plural of 
* hand ' is hands, of ' foot ' feet, of ' man ' men, or that the past 
of ' am ' is was, of ' love ' loved ; it is not informed when to say 
he and when him, or in what order words must stand. How can 
the little fellow learn all this, which when set forth in a grammar 
fills many pages and can only be explained by help Of many 
learned words ? 

Many people will say it comes by ' instinct,' as if ' instinct ' 
were not one of those fine words which are chiefly used to cover 
over what is not understood, because it says so precious little and 
seems to say so precious much. But when other people, using a 
more everyday expression, say that it all ' comes quite of itself,' 
I must strongly demur : so far is it from ' coming of itself ' that 
it demands extraordinary labour on the child's part. The count- 
less grammatical mistakes made by a child in its early j'ears are 
a tell-tale proof of the difficulty which this side of language presents 
to him especially, of course, on account of the unsystematic 
character of our flexions and the irregularity of its so-called 
' rules ' of syntax. 

At first each word has only one form for the child, but he 
soon discovers that grown-up people use many forms which 
resemble one another in different connexions, and he gets a sense 
of the purport of these forms, so as to be able to imitate them 
himself or even develop similar forms of his own. These latter 
forms are what linguists call analogy-formations : by analogy 
with ' Jack's hat ' and ' father's hat ' the child invents such as 
' uncle's hat ' and ' Charlie's hat ' and inasmuch as these forms 
are ' correct,' no one can say on hearing them whether the child 



has really invented them or has first heard them used by others. 
It is just on account of the fact that the forms developed on the 
spur of the moment by each individual are in the vast majority 
of instances perfectly identical with those used already by other 
people, that the principle of analogy comes to have such paramount 
importance in the life of language, for we are all thereby driven 
to apply it unhesitatingly to all those instances in which we have 
no ready-made form handy : without being conscious of it, each 
of us thus now and then really creates something never heard 
before by us or anybody else. 

Vn. 2. Substantives and Adjectives. 

The -s of the possessive is so regular in English that it is not 
difficult for the child to attach it to all words as soon as the 
character of the termination has dawned upon him. But at first 
there is a time with many children in which words are put together 
without change, so that ' Mother hat ' stands for ' Mother's hat ' ; 
cf. also sentences like " Baby want baby milk." 

After the s-form has been learnt, it is occasionally attached to 
pronouns, as you's for ' your,' or more rarely I's or me's for ' my.' 

The -s is now in English added freely to whole groups of words. 
as in the- King of England's power, where the old construction was 
the King's power of England, and in Beaumont and Fletcher's plays 
(see on the historical development of this group genitive my 
ChE iii.). In Danish we have exactly the same construction, 
and Danish children will very frequently extend it, placing the 
-a at the end of a whole interrogative sentence, e.g., ' Hvem er 
det da's ?' (as if in English. ' Who is it then's,' instead of ' Whose 
is it then ? '). Dr. H. Bradley once wrote to me : " One of your 
samples of children's Danish is an exact parallel to a bit of child's 
English that I noted long ago. My son, when a little boy, used 
to say ' Who is that-'s ' (with a pause before the s) for ' Whom 
does that belong to ? '" 

Irregular plurals are often regularized, gooses for ' geese,' 
tooths, knifes, etc O'Shea mentions one child who inversely 
formed the plural chieves for chiefs on the analogy of thieves. 

Sometimes the child becomes acquainted with the plural form 
first, and from it forms a singular. I have noticed this several 
times with Danish children, who had heard the irregular plural 
kzer, ' cows,' and then would say en kt) instead of en ko (while 
others from the singular ko form a regular plural koer). French 
children will say un chevau instead of un cheval. 

In the comparison of adjectives analogy-formations are 
frequent with all children, e.g. the littlest, littler, goodest, baddest, 


130 GRAMMAR [CH. vii 

splendider, etc. One child is reported as saying quicklier, another 
as saying quickerly, instead of the received more quickly. A curious 
formation is " P'raps it was John, but p'rapser it was Mary." 

O'Shea (p. 108) notices a period of transition when the child 
may use the analogical form at one moment and the traditional 
one the next. Thus S. (4.0) will say better perhaps five times 
where he says gooder once, but in times of excitement he will 
revert to the latter form. 

VH. 3. Verbs. 

The child at first tends to treat all verbs on the analogy of 
love, loved, loved, or kiss, kissed, kissed, thus catched, buyed, f rowed 
for ' caught, bought, threw or thrown,' etc., but gradually it learns 
the irregular forms, though in the beginning with a good deal of 
hesitation and confusion, as done for ' did,' hunged for ' hung,' 
etc. O'Shea gives among other sentences (p. 94) : " I drunlced 
my milk." " Budd swunged on the rings." " Grandpa boughted 
me a ring." " I caughted- him." " Aunt Net earned to-day." 
" He gaved it to me " in all of which the irregular form has been 
supplemented with the regular ending. 

A little Danish incident may be thus rendered in English. 
The child (4.6): "I have seed a chestnut." "Where have you 
seen it ? " He : " I seen it in the garden." This shows the 
influence of the form last heard. 

I once heard a French child say " II a pleuvy " for ' plu ' from 
' pleuvoir.' Other analogical forms are prendu for ' pris ' ; assire 
for ' asseoir ' (from the participle assis), se taiser for ' se taire ' 
(from the frequent injunction taisez-vous). Similar formations are 
frequent in all countries. 

VII. 4. Degrees of Consciousness. 

Do the little brains think about these different forms and their 
uses ? Or is the learning of language performed as unconsciously 
as the circulation of the blood or the process of digestion ? Clearly 
they do not think about grammatical forms in the way pursued 
in grammar-lessons, with all the forms of the same word arranged 
side by side of one another, with rules and exceptions. Still there 
is much to lead us to believe that the thing does not go of itself 
without some thinking over. The fact that in later years we 
speak our language without knowing how we do it, the right words 
and phrases coming to us no one knows how or whence, is no 
proof that it was always so. We ride a bicycle without giving 
a thought to the machine, look around us, talk with a friend, 


etc., and yet there was a time when every movement had to be 
mastered by slow and painful efforts. There would be nothing 
strange in supposing that it is the same with the acquisition of 

Of course, it would be idle to ask children straight out if they 
think about these things, and what they think. But now and 
then one notices something which shows that at an early age 
they think about points of grammar a good deal. When Frans 
was 2.9, he lay in bed not knowing that anyone was in the next 
room, and he was heard to say quite plainly : " Sma haender 
hedder det lille haad sma haender lille haender, nae sina 
haender." (" They are called small hands little hand small 
hands little hands, no, small hands " : in Danish lille is not used 
with a plural noun.) Similar things have been related to me by 
other parents, one child, for instance, practising plural forms 
while turning over the leaves of a picture-book, and another one, 
who was corrected for saying nak instead of nikkede (' nodded '), 
immediately retorted " Stikker stak, nikker nak" thus showing 
on what analogy he had formed the new preterit. Frequently 
children, after giving a form which their own ears tell them is 
wrong, at once correct it : 'I sticked it in I stuck it in.' 

A German child, not yet two, said : *' Papa, hast du mir 
was mitgebringt gebrungen gebracht ? " almost at a breath 
(Gabelentz), and another (2.5) said hausin, but then hesitated 
and added : " Man kann auch hauser sagen " (Meringer). 

VIL 5. Word-formation. 

In the forming of words the child's brain is just as active. 
In many cases, again, it will be impossible to distinguish between 
what the child has heard and merely copied and what it has itself 
fashioned to a given pattern. If a child, for example, uses the 
word ' kindness,' it is probable that he has heard it before, but 
it is not certain, because he might equally well have formed the 
word himself. If, however, we hear him say ' kindhood,' or 
'kindship,' or ' wideness,' 'broadness,' ' stupidness,' we know 
for certain that he has made the word up himself, because the 
resultant differs from the form used in the language he hears 
around him. A child who does not know the word ' spade ' may 
call the tool a digger ; he may speak of a lamp as a shine. He 
may say it suns when the sun is shining (cf. it rains), or ask his 
mother to sauce his pudding. It is quite natural that the enormous 
number of nouns and verbs of exactly the same form in English 
(blossom, care, drink, end, fight, fish, ape, hand, dress, etc.) should 
induce children to make new verbs according to the same pattern ; 

132 GRAMMAR [CH. vn 

I quote a few of the examples given by O'Shea : "I am going to 
basket these apples." " I pailed him out " (took a turtle out of 
a washtub with a pail). " 1 needled him " (put a needle through 

Other words are formed by means of derivative endings, as 
sorrified, lessoner (O'Shea 32), flydble (able to fly, Glenconner 3) ; 
" This tooth ought to come out, because it is crookening the others " 
(a ten-year-old, told me by Professor Ayres). Compound nouns, 
too, may be freely formed, such as wind-ship, eye-curtain (O'Shea), 
a fun-copy of Romeo and Juliet (travesty, Glenconner 19). 
Bryan L. (ab. 5) said springklers for chrysalises (' because they 
wake up in the spring '). 

Sometimes a child will make up a new word through ' blend- 
ing ' two, as when Hilary M. (1 8 to 2) spoke of rubbish = the 
rubber to polish the boots, or of the backet, from bat and racquet. 
Beth M. (2.0) used breakolate, from breakf&st and chocolate, and 
Chatty as a child's name, a compound of two sisters, Chanty and 

VH. 6. Word-division. 

We are so accustomed to see sentences in writing or print 
with a little space left after each word, that we have got alto- 
gether wrong conceptions of language as it is spoken. Here words 
follow one another without the least pause till the speaker 
hesitates for a word or has come to the end of what he has to 
say. ' Not at all ' sounds like ' not a tall.' It therefore requires 
in many cases a great deal of comparison and analysis on the 
part of the child to find out what is one and what two or three 
words. We have seen before that the question ' How big is the 
boy ? ' is to the child a single expression, beyond his powers of 
analysis, and to a much later age it is the same with other phrases. 
The child, then, may make false divisions, and either treat a group 
of words as one word or one word as a group of words. A girl 
(2.6) used the term ' Tanobijeu ' whenever she wished her 
younger brother to get out of her way. Her parents finally dis- 
covered that she had caught up and shortened a phrase that 
some older children had used ' 'Tend to your own business ' 

A child, addressing her cousin as ' Aunt Katie,' was told " I 
am not Aunt Katie, I am merely Katie." Next day she said : 
" Good-morning, Aunt merely-Katie " (translated). A child who 
had been praised with the words, ' You are a good boy,' said to 
his mother, "You're a good boy, mother" (2.8). 

Cecil H. (4.0) came back from a party and said that she had 
been given something very nice to eat. " What was it ? " 


" Rats." " No, no." " Well, it was mice then." She had been 
asked if she would have ' some-ice,' and had taken it to be ' some 
mice.' S. L. (2.6) constantly used 'ababana' for 'banana'; 
the form seems to have come from the question " Will you 
have a banana ? " but was used in such a sentence as " May I 
have an ababana ? " Children will often say napple for apple 
through a misdivision of an-apple, and normous for enormous ; 
cf. Ch. X 2. 

A few examples may be added from children's speech in other 
countries. Ronjat's child said nesey for ' echelle,' starting 
from u'ne echelle ; Grammont's child said un tarbre, starting 

from cet arbre, and ce nos for ' cet os,' from un os ; a German child 
said motel for ' hotel,' starting from the combination ' im (h) otel ' 

(Stern). Many German children say arrhoe, because they take 
the first syllable of ' diarrhoe ' as the feminine article. A Dutch 
child heard the phrase ' 'k weet 't niet ' (' I don't know ') , and said 
" Papa, hij kweet 't niet " (Van Ginneken). A Danish child heard 
his father say, '* Jeg skal op i ministeriet " (" I'm going to the Govern- 
ment office "), and took the first syllable as min (my) ; consequently 
he asked, " Skal du i dinisteriet ? " A French child was told that 
they expected Munkacsy (the celebrated painter, in French pro- 
nounced as Mon-), and asked his aunt : " Est-ce que ton Kdc-sy 
ne viendra pas ? " Antoinette K. (7.), in reply to " C'est bien, je 
te felicite," said, " Eh bien, moi je ne te fais pas licite." 

The German ' Ich habe antgewortet ' is obviously on the analogy 
of angenommen, etc. (Meringer). Danish children not unfrequently 
take the verb telefonere as two words, and in the interrogative 
form will place the personal pronoun in the middle of it, ' Tele 
hun fonerer ? ' (' Does she telephone I ') A girl asked to see ele 
mer fant (as if in English she had said ' ele more phant '). Cf. 
' Give me more handier-cap ' for ' Give me a greater handicap ' 
in a foot-race (O'Shea 108). 

Vn. 7. Sentences. 

In the first period the child knows nothing of grammar : it 
does not connect words together, far less form sentences, but each 
word stands by itself. ' Up ' means what we should express by 
a whole sentence, ' I want to get up,' or ' Lift me up ' ; ' Hat ' 
means ' Put on my hat,' or ' I want to put my hat on,' or ' I have 
my hat on,' or ' Mamma has a new hat on ' ; ' Father ' can be 
either ' Here comes Father,' or * This is Father,' or ' He is called 
Father,' or ' I want Father to come to me,' or ' I want this or 
that from Father.' This particular group of sounds is vaguely 
associated with the mental picture of the person in question, 

134 GRAMMAR [CH. vn 

and is uttered at the sight of him or at the mere wish to see him 
or something else in connexion with him. 

When we say that such a word means what we should express 
by a whole sentence, this does not amount to sa}dng that the 
child's ' Up ' is a sentence, or a sentence-word, as many of those 
who have written about these questions have said. We might 
just as well assert that clapping our hands is a sentence, because 
it expresses the same idea (or the same frame of mind) that is 
otherwise expressed by the whole sentence ' This is splendid.' 
The word ' sentence ' presupposes a certain grammatical structure, 
which is wanting in the child's utterance. 

Many investigators have asserted that the child's first utter- 
ances are not means of imparting information, but always an 
expression of the child's wishes and requirements. This is cer- 
tainly somewhat of an exaggeration, since the child quite clearly 
can make known its joy at seeing a hat or a plaything, or at 
merely being able to recognize it and remember the word for it ; 
but the statement still contains a great deal of truth, for without 
strong feelings a child would not say much, and it is a great 
stimulus to talk that he very soon discovers that he gets his wishes 
fulfilled more easily when he makes them known by means of 
certain sounds. 

Frans (1.7) was accustomed to express his longings in general 
by help of a long TO with rising tone, while at the same time 
stretching out his hand towards the particular thing that he 
longed for. This he did, for example, at dinner, when he wanted 
water. One day his mother said, " Now see if you can say vand 
(water)," and at once he said what was an approach to the word, 
and was delighted at getting something to drink by that means. 
A moment later he repeated what he had said, and was inexpressibly 
delighted to have found the password which at once brought him 
something to drink. This was repeated several times. Next day, 
when his father was pouring out water for himself, the boy again 
said ' van,' ' van,' and was duly rewarded. He had not heard 
the word during the intervening twenty -four hours, and nothing 
had been done to remind him of it. After some repetitions (for 
he only got a few drops at a time) he pronounced the word for 
the first time quite correctly. The day after, the same thing 
occurred ; the word was never heard but at dinner. When he 
became rather a nuisance with his constant cries for water, his 
mother said : " Say please " and immediately came his " Bebe 
vand " (" Water, please ") bis first attempt to put two words 

Later in this formless period the child puts more and more 
words together, often in quite haphazard order : ' My go snow ' 


('I want to go out into the snow'), etc. A Danish child of 2.1 
said the Danish words (imperfectly pronounced, of course) corre- 
sponding to " Oh papa lamp mother boom," when his mother had 
struck his father's lamp with a bang. Another child said " Papa 
hen corn cap " when he saw his father give corn to the hens out 
of his cap. 

When Frans was 1.10, passing a post-office (which Danes call 
' posthouse '), he said of his own accord the Danish words for 
' post, house, bring, letter ' (a pause between the successive words) 
I suppose that the day before he had heard a sentence in which 
these words occurred. In the same month, when he had thrown 
a ball a long way, he said what would be in English ' dat was 
good.' This was not a sentence which he had put together for 
himself, but a mere repetition of what had been said to him, clearly 
conceived as a whole, and equivalent to ' bravo.' Sentences of 
this kind, however, though taken as units, prepare the way for 
the understanding of the words ' that ' and ' was ' when they turn 
up in other connexions. 

One thing which plays a great r61e in children's acquisition 
of language, and especially in their early attempts to form sen- 
tences, is Echoism : the fact that children echo what is said to 
them. When one is learning a foreign language, it is an excellent 
method to try to imitate to oneself in silence every sentence which 
one hears spoken by a native. By that means the turns of phrases, 
the order of words, the intonation of the sentence are firmly fixed 
in the memory so that they can be recalled when required, or 
rather recur to one quite spontaneously without an effort. What 
the grown man does of conscious purpose our children to a large 
extent do without a thought that is, they repeat aloud what 
they have just heard, either the whole, if it is a very short sentence, 
or more commonly the conclusion, as much of it as they can retain 
in their short memories. The result is a matter of chance it 
need not always have a meaning or consist of entire words. Much, 
clearly, is repeated without being understood, much, again, without 
being more than half understood. Take, for example (translated) : 

Shall I carry you ? Frans (1.9) : Carry you. 

Shall Mother carry Frans ? Carry Frans. 

The sky is so blue. So boo. 

I shall take an umbrella. Take rella. 

Though this feature in a child's mental history has been often 
noticed, no one seems to have seen its full significance. One of 
the acutest observers (Meumann, p. 28) even says that it has no 
importance in the development of the child's speech. On the 
contrary, I think that Echoism explains very much indeed. First 
let us bear in mind the mutilated forms of words which a child 

136 GRAMMAR [CH. vii 

uses : 'chine for machine, 'gar for cigar, Trix for Beatrix, etc. 
Then a child's frequent use of an indirect form of question rather 
than direct, ' Why you smoke, Father ? ' which can hardly be 
explained except as an echo of sentences like ' Tell me why you 
smoke.' This plays a greater r61e in Danish than in English, 
and the corresponding form of the sentence has been frequently 
remarked by Danish parents. Another feature which is nearly 
constant with Danish children at the age when echoing is habitual 
is the inverted word order : this is used after an initial adverb 
(nu kommer hun, etc.), but the child will use it in all cases (kommer 
hun, etc.). Further, the extremely frequent use of the infinitive, 
because the child hears it towards the end of a sentence, where 
it is dependent on a preceding can, or may, or must. ' Not eat 
that ' is a child's echo of ' You mustn't eat that.' In German 
this has become the ordinary form of official order : " Nicht 
hinauslehnen " ("Do not lean out of the window"). 

Vn. 8. Negation and Question. 

Most children learn to say ' no ' before they can say ' yes ' 
simply because negation is a stronger expression of feeling than 
affirmation. Many little children use nenenene (short g) as a 
natural expression of fretfulness and discomfort. It is perhaps 
so natural that it need not be learnt : there is good reason for 
the fact that in so many languages words of negation begin with 
n (or ra). Sometimes the n is heard without a vowel : it is only 
the gesture of ' turning up one's nose ' made audible. 

At first the child does not express what it is that it does 
not want it merely puts it away with its hand, pushes away, 
for example, what is too hot for it. But when it begins to express 
in words what it is that it will not have, it does so often in the 
form ' Bread no,' often with a pause between the words, as two 
separate utterances, as when we might say, in our fuller forms of 
expression : ' Do you offer me bread ? I won't hear of it.' So 
with verbs : ' I sleep no.' Thus with many Danish children, 
and I find the same phenomenon mentioned with regard to children 
of different nations. Tracy says (p. 136) : "Negation was expressed 
by an affirmative sentence, with an emphatic no tacked on at 
the end, exactly as the deaf-mutes do." The blind-deaf Helen 
Keller, when she felt her little sister's mouth and her mother 
spelt ' teeth ' to her, answered : " Baby teeth no, baby eat 
no," i.e., baby cannot eat because she has no teeth. In the same 
way, in German, ' Stul nei nei schossel,' i.e., I won't sit on the 
chair, but in your lap, and in French, ' Papa abeie ato non, iaian 
abeie non,' i.e., Papa n'est pas encore habille, Suzanne n'est pas 


kabillee (Stern, 189, 203). It seems thus that this mode of expres- 
sion will crop up everywhere as an emphatic negation. 

Interrogative sentences come generally rather early it would 
be better to say questions, because at first they do not take the 
form of interrogative sentences, the interrogation being expressed 
by bearing, look or gesture : when it begins to be expressed by 
intonation we are on the way to question expressed in speech. 
Some of the earliest questions have to do with place : ' Where 
is . . . ? ' The child very often hears such sentences as ' Where 
is its little nose ? ' which are not really meant as questions ; we 
may also remark that questions of this type are of great practical 
importance for the little thing, who soon uses them to beg for 
something which has been taken away from him or is out of his 
reach. Other early questions are ' What's that ? ' and ' Who ? ' 

Later generally, it would seem, at the close of the third year 
questions with ' why ' crop up : these are of the utmost impor- 
tance for the child's understanding of the whole world and its 
manifold occurrences, and, however tiresome they may be when 
they come in long strings, no one who wishes well to his child 
will venture to discourage them. Questions about time, such as 
' When ? How long ? ' appear much later, owing to the child's 
difficulty in acquiring exact ideas about time. 

Children often find a difficulty in double questions, and when 
asked ' Will you have brown bread or white ? ' merely answer 
the last word with ' Yes.' So in reply to ' Is that red or yellow ? ' 
'Yes' means 'yellow' (taken from a child of 4.11). I think 
this is an instance of the short memories of children, who have 
already at the end of the question forgotten the beginning, but 
Professor Mawer thinks that the real difficulty here is in making 
a choice : they cannot decide between alternatives : usually they 
are silent, and if they say ' Yes ' it only means that they do not 
want to go without both or feel that they must say something. 

VH 9. Prepositions and Idioms. 

Prepositions are of very late growth in a child's languag 
Much attention has been given to the point, and Stern has collected 
statistics of the ages at which various children have first used 
prepositions: the earliest age is 1.10, the average age is 2.3. 
It does not, however, seem to me to be a matter of much interest 
how early an individual word of some particular grammatical 
class is first used ; it is much more interesting to follow up the 
gradual growth of the child's command of this class and to see 
how the first inevitable mistakes and confusions arise in the 
little brain. Stern makes the interesting remark that when the 

138 GRAMMAR [CH. vii 

tendency to use prepositions first appears, it grows far more 
rapidly than the power to discriminate one preposition from 
another ; with his own children there came a time when they 
employed the same word as a sort of universal preposition in all 
relations. Hilda used von, Eva auf. I have never observed 
anything corresponding to this among Danish children. 

All children start by putting the words for the most important 
concepts together without connective words, so ' Leave go bed- 
room ' (' May I have leave to go into the bedroom ? '), ' Out road ' 
(' I am going out on the road '). The first use of prepositions is 
always in set phrases learnt as wholes, like ' go to school,' * go to 
pieces,' ' lie in bed,' ' at dinner.' Not till later comes the power 
of using prepositions in free combinations, and it is then that 
mistakes appear. Nor is this surprising, since in all languages 
prepositional usage contains much that is peculiar and arbitrary, 
chiefly because when we once pass beyond a few quite clear applica- 
tions of time and place, the relations to be expressed become so 
vague and indefinite, that logically one preposition might often 
seem just as right as another, although usage has laid down a 
fast law that this preposition must be used in this case and that 
in another. I noted down a great number of mistakes my own 
boy made in these words, but in all cases I was able to find some 
synonymous or antonymous expression in which the preposition 
used would have been the correct one, and which may have been 
vaguely before his mind. 

The multiple meanings of prepositions sometimes have strange 
results. A little girl was in her bath, and hearing her mother 
say : " I will wash you in a moment," answered : " No, you must 
wash me in the bath " ! She was led astray by the two uses of 
in. We know of the child at school who was asked " What is an 
average ? " and said : " What the hen lays eggs on." Even men 
of science are similarly led astray by prepositions. It is perfectly 
natural to say that something has passed over the threshold of 
consciousness : the metaphor is from the way in which you enter 
a house by stepping over the threshold. If the metaphor were 
kept, the opposite situation would be expressed by the statement 
that such and such a thing is outside the threshold of conscious- 
ness. But psychologists, in the thoughtless way of little children, 
take under to be always the opposite of over, and so speak of things 
' lying under (or below) the threshold of our consciousness,' and have 
even invented a Latin word for the unconscious, viz. subliminal* 

H. G. Wells writes (Soul of a Bishop, 94) : " He was lugging things 
now into speech that so far had been scarcely above the threshold of his conscious 
thought." Here we see the wrong interpretation of the preposition over 
dragging with it the synonym above. 


Children may use verbs with an object which require a preposi- 
tion (' Will you wait me ? '), or which are only used intransitively 
(' Will you jump me ? '), or they may mix up an infinitival with a 
direct construction (' Could you hear me sneezed ? '). But it is 
curely needless to multiply examples. 

When many years ago, in my Progress in Language, I spoke 
of the advantages, even to natives, of simplicity in linguistic 
structure, Professor Herman Moller, in a learned review, objected 
to me that to the adult learning a foreign tongue the chief difficulty 
consists in " the countless chicaneries due to the tyrannical and 
capricious usage, whose tricks there is no calculating ; but these 
offer to the native child no such difficulty as morphology may," 
and again, in speaking of the choice of various prepositions, which 
is far from easy to the foreigner, he says : ** But any considerable 
mental exertion on the part of the native child learning its 
mother-tongue is here, of course, out of the question." Such 
assertions as these cannot be founded on actual observation ; at 
any rate, it is my experience in listening to children's talk that 
long after they have reached the point where they make hardly 
any mistake in pronunciation and verbal forms, etc., they are 
still capable of using many turns of speech which are utterly 
opposed to the spirit of the language, and which are in the main 
of the same kind as those which foreigners are apt to fall into. 
Many of the child's mistakes are due to mixtures or blendings of 
two turns of expression, and not a few of them may be logically 
justified. But learning a language implies among other things 
learning what you may not say in the language, even though 
no reasonable ground can be given for the prohibition. 


1. Why ia the Native Language learnt so well ? 2. Natural Ability 
and Sex. 3. Mother-tongue and Other Tongue. 4. Playing at 
Language. 5. Secret Languages. 6. Onomatopoeia. 7. Word- 
inventions. 8. ' Mamma ' and ' Papa.' 

. Why is the Native Language learnt so well ? 
How does it happen that children in general learn their mother- 
tongue so well ? That this is a problem becomes clear when we 
contrast a child's first acquisition of its mother-tongue with the 
later acquisition of any foreign tongue. The contrast is indeed 
striking and manifold : here we have a quite little child, without 
experience or prepossessions ; there a bigger child, or it may be 
a grown-up person with all sorts of knowledge and powers : here a 
haphazard method of procedure ; there the whole task laid out in 
a system (for even in the schoolbooks that do not follow the old 
grammatical system there is a certain definite order of progress 
from more elementary to more difficult matters) : here no pro- 
fessional teachers, but chance parents, brothers and sisters, nursery- 
maids and playmates ; there teachers trained for many years 
specially to teach languages : here only oral instruction ; there not 
only that, but reading-books, dictionaries and other assistance. 
And yet this is the result : here complete and exact command 
of the language as a native speaks it, however stupid the children ; 
there, in most cases, even with people otherwise highly gifted, a 
defective and inexact command of the language. On what does 
this difference depend ? 

The problem has never been elucidated or canvassed from all 
sides, but here and there one finds a partial answer, often given 
out to be a complete answer. Often one side of the question only 
is considered, that which relates to sounds, as if the whole problem 
had been solved when one had found a reason for children acquiring 
a better pronunciation of their mother-tongue than one generally 
gets in later life of a foreign speech. 

Many people accordingly tell us that children's organs of speech 
are especially flexible, but that this suppleness of the tongue and 
lips is lost in later life. This explanation, however, does not hold 



water, as is shown sufficiently by the countless mistakes in sound 
made by children. If their organs were as flexible as is pretended, 
they could learn sounds correctly at once, while as a matter of 
fact it takes a long time before all the sounds and groups of sounds 
are imitated with tolerable accuracy. Suppleness is not some- 
thing which is original, but something acquired later, and acquired 
with no small difficulty, and then only with regard to the sounds 
of one's own language, and not universally. 

The same applies to the second answer (given by Bremer, 
Deuteche Phonetik, 2), namely, that the child's ear is especially 
sensitive to impressions. The ear also requires development, 
since at first it can scarcely detect a number of nuances which we 
grown-up people hear most distinctly. 

Some people say that the reason why a child learns its native 
language so well is that it has no established habits to contend 
against. But that is not right either : as any good observer can 
see, the process by which the child acquires sounds is pursued 
through a continuous struggle against bad habits which it has 
acquired at an earlier stage and which may often have rooted 
themselves remarkably firmly. 

Sweet (H 19) says among other things that the conditions of 
learning vernacular sounds are so favourable because the child 
has nothing else to do at the time. On the contrary, one may say 
that the child has an enormous deal to do while it is learning the 
language ; it is at that time active beyond all belief : in a short 
time it subdues wider tracts than it ever does later in a much 
longer time. The more wonderful is it that along with those 
tasks it finds strength to learn its mother-tongue and its many 
refinements and crooked turns. 

Some point to heredity and say that a child learns that language 
most easily which it is disposed beforehand to learn by its ancestry, 
or in other words that there are inherited convolutions of the 
brain which take in this language better than any other. Perhaps 
there is something in this, but we have no definite, carefully ascer- 
tained facts. Against the theory stands the fact that the children 
of immigrants acquire the language of their foster-country to 
all appearance just as surely and quickly as children of the same 
age whose forefathers have been in the country for ages. This 
may be observed in England, in Denmark, and still more in North 
America. Environment clearly has greater influence than descent. 

The real answer in my opinion (which is not claimed to be 
absolutely new in every respect) lies partly in the child itself, 
partly in the behaviour towards it of the people around it. In 
the first place, the time of learning the mother-tongue is the most 
favourable of all, namely, the first years of life. If one assumes 


that mental endowment means the capacity for development, 
without doubt all children are best endowed in their first years : 
from birth onwards there is a steady decline in the power of grasping 
what is new and of accommodating oneself to it. With some 
this decline is a very rapid one they quickly become fossilized 
and unable to make a change in their habits ; with others one 
can notice a happy power of development even in old age ; but 
no one keeps very long in its full range the adaptability of his 
first years. 

Further, we must remember that the child has far more 
abundant opportunities of hearing his mother-tongue than one 
gets, as a rule, with any language one learns later. He hears it 
from morning to night, and, be it noted, hi its genuine shape, 
with the right pronunciation, right intonation, right use of words 
and right syntax : the language comes to him as a fresh, ever- 
bubbling spring. Even before he begins to say anything himself, 
his first understanding of the language is made easier by the habit 
that mothers and nurses have of repeating the same phrases with 
slight alterations, and at the same time doing the thing which 
they are talking about. " Now we must wash the little face, now 
we must wash the little forehead, now we must wash the little 
nose, now we must wash the little chin, now we must wash the 
little ear," etc. If men had to attend to their children, they would 
never use so many words but in that case the child would scarcely 
learn to understand and talk as soon as it does when it is cared 
for by women. 1 

Then the child has, as it were, private lessons in its mother- 
tongue all the year round. There is nothing of the kind in the 
learning of a language later, when at most one has six hours a 
week and generally shares them with others. The child has another 
priceless advantage : he hears the language in all possible situations 
and under such conditions that language and situation ever 
correspond exactly to one another and mutually illustrate one 
another. Gesture and facial expression harmonize with the words 

1 Women know 

The way to rear up children, (to be just) 
They know a simple, merry, tender knack 
Of stringing pretty words that make no sense, 
And kissing full sense into empty words, 
Which things are corals to cut life upon, 
Although such trifles : children learn by such 
Love's holy earnest in a pretty play 
And get not over-early solemnized . . . 
Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well 
Mine did, I know but still with heavier brains, 
And wills more consciously responsible, 
And not as wisely, since less foolishly. 

ELIZABETH BROWNING : Aurora Leigh, 10. 


uttered and keep the child to a right understanding. Here there 
is nothing unnatural, such as is often the case in a language-lesson 
in later years, when one talks about ice and snow in June or 
excessive heat in January. And what the child hears is just what 
immediately concerns him and interests him, and again and again 
his own attempts at speech lead to the fulfilment of his dearest 
wishes, so that his command of language has great practical 
advantages for him. 

Along with what he himself sees the use of, he hears a great 
deal which does not directly concern him, but goes into the little 
brain and is stored up there to turn up again later. Nothing is 
heard but leaves its traces, and at times one is astonished to 
discover what has been preserved, and with what exactness. One 
day, when Frans was 4.11 old, he suddenly said : " Yesterday 
isn't there some who say yesterday ? " (giving yesterday with the 
correct English pronunciation), and when I said that it was an 
English word, he went on : " Yes, it is Mrs. B. : she often says 
like that, yesterday." Now, it was three weeks since that lady 
had called at the house and talked English. It is a well-known 
fact that hypnotized persons can sometimes say whole sentences 
in a language which the} 7 do not know, but have merely heard in 
childhood. In books about children's language there are many 
remarkable accounts of such linguistic memories which had lain 
buried for long stretches of time. A child who had spent the 
first eighteen months of its life in Silesia and then came to Berlin, 
where it had no opportunity of hearing the Silesian pronunciation, 
at the age of five suddenly came out with a number of Silesian 
expressions, which could not after the most careful investigation 
be traced to any other source than to the time before it could talk 
(Stern, 257 ff.). Grammont has a story of a little French girl, 
whose nurse had talked French with a strong Italian accent ; the 
child did not begin to speak till a month after this nurse had left, 
but pronounced many words with Italian sounds, and some of 
these peculiarities stuck to the child till the age of three. 

We may also remark that the baby's teachers, though, regarded 
as teachers of language, they may not be absolutely ideal, still 
have some advantages over those one encounters as a rule later in 
life. The relation between them and the child is far more cordial 
and personal, just because they are not teachers first and foremost. 
They are immensely interested in every little advance the child 
makes. The most awkward attempt meets with sympathy, often 
with admiration, while its defects and imperfections never expose 
it to a breath of unkind criticism. There is a Slavonic proverb, 
" If you wish to talk well, you must murder the language first." 
But this is very often overlooked by teachers of language, who 


demand faultless accuracy from the beginning, and often keep 
their pupils grinding so long at some little part of the subject that 
their desire to learn the language is weakened or gone for good. 
There is nothing of this sort in the child's first learning of his 

It is here that our distinction between the two periods comes 
in, that of the child's own separate ' little language ' and that 
of the common or social language. In the first period the little 
one is the centre of a narrow circle of his own, which waits for 
each little syllable that falls from his lips as though it were a 
grain of gold. What teachers of languages in later years would 
rejoice at hearing such forms as we saw before used in the time 
of the child's ' little language,' fant or vat or ham for 'elephant ' ? 
But the mother really does rejoice : she laughs and exults when 
he can use these syllables about his toy-elephant, she throws the 
cloak of her love over the defects and mistakes in the little one's 
imitations of words, she remembers again and again what his 
strange sounds stand for, and her eager sympathy transforms 
the first and most difficult steps on the path of language to the 
merriest game. 

It would not do, however, for the child's ' little language ' and 
its dreadful mistakes to become fixed. This might easily happen, 
if the child were never out of the narrow circle of its own family, 
which knows and recognizes its 'little language.' But this is 
stopped because it comes more and more into contact with others 
uncles and aunts, and especially little cousins and playmates : 
more and more often it happens that the mutilated words are not 
understood, and are corrected and made fun of, and the child 
is incited in this way to steady improvement : the ' little language ' 
gradually gives place to the ' common language,' as the child 
becomes a member of a social group larger than that of his own 
little home. 

We have now probably found the chief reasons why a child 
learns his mother-tongue better than even a grown-up person 
who has been for a long time in a foreign country learns the 
language of his environment. But it is also a contributory reason 
that the child's linguistic needs, to begin with, are far more limited 
than those of the man who wishes to be able to talk about any- 
thing, or at any rate about something. Much more is also lin- 
guistically required of the latter, and he must have recourse to 
language to get all his needs satisfied, while the baby is well looked 
after even if it says nothing but wawawawa. So the baby has 
longer time to store up his impressions and continue his experi- 
ments, until by trying again and again he at length gets his lesson 
learnt in all its tiny details, while the man in the foreign country, 


who must make himself understood, as a rule goes on trying only 
till he has acquired a form of speech which he finds natives under- 
stand : at this point he will generally stop, at any rate as far as 
pronunciation and the construction of sentences are concerned 
(while his vocabulary may be largely increased). But this ' just 
recognizable ' language is incorrect in thousands of small details, 
and, inasmuch as bad little habits quickly become fixed, the 
kind of language is produced which we know so well in the case 
of resident foreigners who need hardly open their lips before 
everyone knows they are not natives, and before a practised ear 
can detect the country they hail from. 1 

Vm. 2. Natural Ability and Sex. 

An important factor in the acquisition of language which we 
have not considered is naturally the individuality of the child. 
Parents are apt to draw conclusions as to the abilities of their 
young hopeful from the rapidity with which he learns to talk ; 
but those who are in despair because their Tommy cannot say a 
single word when their neighbours' Harry can say a great deal 
may take comfort. Slowness in talking may of course mean defi- 
ciency of ability, or even idiocy, but not necessarily. A child 
who chatters early may remain a chatterer all his life, and children 
whose motto is ' Slow and sure ' may turn out the deepest, most 
independent and most trustworthy characters in the end. There 
are some children who cannot be made to say a single word for a 
long time, and then suddenly come out with a whole sentence, 
which shows how much has been quietly fructifying in their brain. 
Carlyle was one of these : after eleven months of taciturnity he 
heard a child cry, and astonished all by saying, " What ails wee 
Jock ? " Edmund Gosse has a similar story of his own childhood, 
and other examples have been recorded elsewhere (Meringer, 194 ; 
Stern, 257). 

1 This is not the place to speak of the way in which prevalent methods 
of teaching foreign languages can be improved. A slavish copying of the 
manner in which English children learn English is impracticable, and if 
it were practicable it would demand more time than anyone can devote 
to the purpose. One has to make the most of the advantages which the 
pupils possess over babies, thus, their being able to read, their power of more 
sustained attention, etc. Phonetic explanation of the new sounds and 
phonetic transcription have done wonders to overcome difficulties of pro- 
nunciation. But in other respects it is possible to some extent to assimilate 
the teaching of a foreign language to the method pursued by the child in 
its first years : one should not merely sprinkle the pupil, but plunge him 
right down into the sea of language and enable him to swim by himself as 
soon as possible, relying on the fact that a great deal will arrange itself in 
the brain without the inculcation of too many special rules and explanations. 
For details I may refer to my book, How to Teach a Foreign Language (London, 
George Allen and Unwin). 



The linguistic development of an individual child is not always 
in a steady rising line, but in a series of waves. A child who 
seems to have a boundless power of acquiring language suddenly 
stands still or even goes back for a short time. The cause may be 
sickness, cutting teeth, learning to walk, or often a removal to 
new surroundings or an open-air life in summer. Under such 
circumstances even the word ' I ' may be lost for a time. 

Some children develop very rapidly for some years until they 
have reached a certain point, where they stop altogether, while 
others retain the power to develop steadily to a much later age. 
It is the same with some races : negro children in American schools 
may, while they are little, be up to the standard of their white 
schoolfellows, whom they cannot cope with in later life. 

The two sexes differ very greatly in regard to speech as in 
regard to most other things. Little girls, on the average, learn 
to talk earlier and more quickly than boys ; they outstrip them 
in talking correctly ; their pronunciation is not spoilt by the many 
bad habits and awkwardnesses so often found in boys. It has 
been proved by statistics in many countries that there are far 
more stammerers and bad speakers among boys and men than 
among girls and women. The general receptivity of women, their 
great power of, and pleasure in, imitation, their histrionic talent, 
if one may so say all this is a help to them at an early age, so that 
they can get into other people's way of talking with greater agility 
than boys of the same age. 

Everything that is conventional in language, everything in 
wnich the only thing of importance is to be in agreement with 
those around you, is the girls' strong point. Boys may often 
show a certain reluctance to do exactly as others do : the pecu- 
liarities of their ' little language ' are retained by them longer 
than by girls, and they will sometimes steadily refuse to correct 
their own abnormalities, which is very seldom the case with girls. 
Gaucherie and originality thus are two points between which the 
speech of boys is constantly oscillating. Cf. below, Ch. XIII. 

Vm. 3. Mother-tongue and Other Tongue. 
The expression " mother-tongue " should not be understood 
too literally : the language which the child acquires naturally 
is not, or not always, his mother's language. When a mother 
speaks with a foreign accent or in a pronounced dialect, her children 
as a rule speak their language as correctly as other children, or 
keep only the slightest tinge of their mother's peculiarities. I 
have seen this very distinctly in many Danish families, in which 
the mother has kept up he? Norwegian language all her life, and in 


which the children have spoken pure Danish. Thus also in two 
families I know, in which a strong Swedish accent in one mother, 
and an unmistakable American pronunciation in the other, have 
not prevented the children from speaking Danish exactly as if 
their mothers had been born and bred in Denmark. I cannot, 
therefore, agree with Passy, who says that the child learns his 
mother's sound system (Ch 32), or with Dauzat's dictum to the 
same effect (V 20). The father, as a rule, has stilJ less influence ; 
but what is decisive is the speech of those with whom the child 
comes in closest contact from the age of three or so, thus frequently 
servants, but even more effectually playfellows of his own age 
or rather slightly older than himself, with whom he is constantly 
thrown together for hours at a time and whose prattle is constantly 
in his ears at the most impressionable age, while he may not see 
and hear his father and mother except for a short time every day, 
at meals and on such occasions. It is also a well-known fact 
that the children of Danish parents in Greenland often learn the 
Eskimo language before Danish ; and Meinhof says that German 
children in the African colonies will often learn the language of 
the natives earlier than German (MSA 139). 

This is by no means depreciating the mother's influence, which 
is strong indeed, but chiefly in the first period, that of the child's 
4 little language.' But that is the time when the child's imitative 
power is weakest. His exact attention to the minutije of language 
dates from the time when he is thrown into a wider circle and 
has to make himself understood by many, so that his language 
becomes really identical with that of the community, where 
formerly he and his mother would rest contented with what they, 
but hardly anyone else, could understand. 

The influence of children on children cannot be overestimated. 1 
Boys at school make fun of any peculiarities of speech noticed in 
schoolfellows who come from some other part of the countrv. 
Kipling tells us in Stalky and Co. how Stalky and Beetle carefully 
kicked McTurk out of his Irish dialect. When I read this, I was 
vividly reminded of the identical method my new friends applied 
to me when at the age of ten I was transplanted from Jutland 
to a school in Seeland and excited their merriment through some 
Jutlandish expressions and intonations. And so we may say that 
the most important factor in spreading the common or standard 
language is children themselves. 

It often happens that children who are compelled at home to 
talk without any admixture of dialect talk pure dialect when 
playing with their schoolfellows out of doors. They can keep the 

1 Hence, also, the second or third child in a family will, as a rule, learn 
to speak more rapidly than the eldest. 


two forms of speech distinct. In the same way they can learn 
two languages less closely connected. At times this results in 
very strange blendings. at least for a time ; but many children 
will easily pass from one language to the other without mixing 
them up, especially if they come in contact with the two languages 
in different surroundings or on the lips of different people. 

It is, of course, an advantage for a child to be familiar with 
two languages : but without doubt the advantage may be, and 
generally is, purchased too dear. First of all the child in question 
hardly learns either of the two languages as perfectly as he would 
have done if he had limited himself to one. It may seem, on the 
surface, as if he talked just like a native, but he does not really 
command the fine points of the language. Has any bilingual child 
ever developed into a great artist in speech, a poet or orator ? 

Secondly, the brain effort required to master two languages 
instead of one certainly diminishes the child's power of learning 
other things which might and ought to be learnt. Schuchardt 
rightly remarks that if a bilingual man has two strings to his bow, 
both are rather slack, and that the three souls which the ancient 
Roman said he possessed, owing to his being able to talk three 
different languages, were probably very indifferent souls after all. 
A native of Luxemburg, where it is usual for children to talk 
both French and German, says that few Luxemburgers talk both 
languages perfectly. " Germans often say to us : ' You speak 
German remarkably well for a Frenchman,' and French people 
will say, ' They are Germans who speak our language excellently.' 
Nevertheless, we never speak either language as fluently as the 
natives. The worst of the system is, that instead of learning 
things necessary to us we must spend our time and energy in 
learning to express the same thought in two or three languages 
at the same time." 1 

Vm. 4. Playing at Language. 

The child takes delight in making meaningless sounds long 
after it has learnt to talk the language of its elders. At 2 . 2 Frans 
amused himself with long series of such sounds, uttered with the 
most confiding look and proper intonation, and it was a joy to 
him when I replied with similar sounds. He kept up this game 
for years. Once (4.11) after such a performance he asked me: 
" Is that English ? " " No."" Why not ? " " Because I under- 
stand English, but I do not understand what you say." An 
hour later he came back and asked : " Father, do you know all 
languages ? " " No, there are many I don't know."- -" Do you 
1 I translate this from Ido, Bee The International Language, May 1912. 


know German ? " t; Yes." (Frans looked rather crestfallen : 
the servants had often said of his invented language that he 
was talking German. So he went on) " Do you know 
Japanese ? " " No." (Delighted) " So remember when I say 
something you don't understand, it's Japanese." 

It is the same everywhere. Hawthorne writes : " Pearl mumbled 
something into his ear, that sounded, indeed, like human language, 
but was only such gibberish as children may be heard amusing 
themselves with, by the hour together " (The Scarlet Letter, 173). 
And R. L. Stevenson : " Children prefer the shadow to the substance. 
When they might be speaking intelligibly together, they chatter 
senseless gibberish by the hour, and are quite happy because they 
are making believe to speak French" (Virginibus P., 236; cf. 
Glenconner, p. 40; Stern, pp. 76, 91, 103). Meringer's boy (2.1) 
took the music-book and sang a tune of his own making with 
incomprehensible words. 

Children also take delight in varying the sounds of real words, 
introducing, for instance, alliterations, as " Sing a song of sixpence, 
A socket full of sye," etc. Frans at 2 . 3 amused himself by rounding 
all his vowels (o for a, y for ), and at 3 . 1 by making all words of 
a verse line he had learnt begin with d, then the same words begin 
with t. O'Shea (p. 32) says that " most children find pleasure 
in the production of variations upon some of their familiar words. 
Their purpose seems to be to test their ability to be original. The 
performance of an unusual act affords pleasure in linguistics as in 
other matters. H., learning the word dessert, to illustrate, plays 
with it for a time and exhibits it in a dozen or more variations 
dissert, dishert, desot, dessert, and so on." 

Rhythm and rime appeal strongly to the children's minds. 
One English observer says that " a child in its third year will 
copy the rhythm of songs and verses it has heard in nonsense 
words." The same thing is noted by Meringer (p. 116) and 
Stern (p. 103). Tony E. (2.10) suddenly made up the rime 
" My mover, I lov-er," and Gordon M. (2 . 6) never tired of repeating 
a phrase of his own composition, " Custard over mustard." A 
Danish girl of 3.1 is reported as having a "curious knack of 
twisting all words into rimes : bestemor hestemor prestemor, 
Gudrun sludrun pludrun, etc." 

VIEL 5. Secret Languages. 

Children, as we have seen, at first employ play-language for 
its own sake, with no arriere-pensee, but as they get older they 
may see that such language has the advantage of not being under- 
stood by their elders, and so they may develop a ' secret language ' 


consciously. Some such languages are confined to one school, 
others may be in common use among children of a certain age 
all over a country. ' M-gibberish ' and ' S-gibberish ' consist 
in inserting m and s, as in goming mout tomdaym or gosings outs 
tosdays for ' going out to-day ' ; ' Marrowskying ' or ' Hospital 
Greek ' transfers the initial letters of words, as renty of plain for 
' plenty of rain,' fiutterby for ' butterfly ' ; ' Ziph ' or ' Hypernese ' 
(at Winchester) substitutes wa for the first of two initial consonants 
and inserts p or g, making ' breeches ' into wareechepes and ' penny ' 
into pegennepy. From my own boyhood in Denmark I remember 
two languages of this sort, in which a sentence like ' du er et lille 
asen ' became dupu erper etpet lilpillepe apasenpen and durbe erbe 
erbe lirbderbe arbeserbe respectively. Closely corresponding lan- 
guages, with insertion of p and addition of -erbse, are found in 
Germany ; in Holland we find ' de schoone Mei ' made into depe 
schoopoompe Meipii, besides an -erwi-taal with a variation in 
which the ending is -erf. In France such a language is called 
javanais ; ' je vais bien ' is made into je-de-que vais-dai-qai bien- 
den-qen. In Savoy the cowherds put deg after each syllable and 
thus make ' a-te kogneu se vayhi ' (' as-tu connu ce vacher ? ' in 
the local dialect) into a-dsgd te-dege ko-dego gnu-degu se-dege va-dega 
chi-degi ? Nay, even among the Maoris of New Zealand there 
is a similar secret language, in which instead of ' kei te, haere au 
ki reira ' is said te-kei te-i-te te-haere-te-re te-a te-u te-ki te-re-te-i-te-ra. 
Human nature is pretty much the same everywhere. 1 

VIII. 6. Onomatopoeia. 

Do children really create new words ? This question has been 
much discussed, but even those who are most skeptical in that 
respect incline to allow them this power in the case of words which 
imitate sounds. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the 
majority of onomatopoeic words heard from children are not their 
own invention, but are acquired by them in the same way as 
other words. Hence it is that such words have different forms 
in different languages. Thus to English cockadoodledoo corresponds 
French coquerico, German kikeriki and Danish kykeliky, to E. 
quack-quack, F. cancan, Dan. raprap, etc. These words are an 
imperfect representation of the birds' natural cry, but from their 
likeness to it they are easier for the child to seize than an entirely 
arbitrary name such as duck. 

But, side by side with these, children do invent forms of their 
own, though the latter generally disappear quickly in favour of the 

1 I have collected a bibliographical lint of such ' secret languages ' in 
Nord. Tidsfkrijt f. Filologi, 4r. vol. 6. 


traditional forms. Thus Frans (2.3) had coined the word vakvak, 
which his mother had heard sometimes without understanding what 
he meant, when one day he pointed at some crows while repeating 
the same word ; but when his mother told him that these birds 
were called krager, he took hold of this word with eagerness and 
repeated it several times, evidently recognizing it as a better name 
than his own. A little boy of 2 . 1 called soda-water ft, another boy 
said ging or gingging for a clock, also for the railway train, while 
bis brother said dann for a bell or clock; a little girl (1.9) said 
pooh (whispered) for ' match, cigar, pipe,' and gagag for ' hen,' etc. 
When once formed, such words may be transferred to other 
things, where the sound plays no longer any role. This may be 
illustrated through two extensions of the same word boom or bom, 
used by two children first to express the sound of something falling 
on the floor ; then Ellen K. (1.9) used it for a ' blow,' and finally 
for anything disagreeable, e.g. soap in the eyes, while Kaare G. (1.8), 
after seeing a plate smashed, used the word for a broken plate and 
afterwards for anything broken, a hole in a dress, etc., also when a 
button had come off or when anything else was defective in any way. 

Vm. 7. Word-inventions. 

Do children themselves create words apart from onomatopoeic 
words ? To me there is no doubt that they do. Frans invented 
many words at his games that had no connexion, or very little 
connexion, with existing words. He was playing with a little 
twig when I suddenly heard him exclaim : " This is called lampe- 
tine," but a little while afterwards he said lanketine, and then 
again lampetine, and then he said, varying the play, " Now it is 
kluatine and traniklualalilua " (3.6). A month later I write: 
" He is never at a loss for a self -in vented word ; for instance, when 
he has made a figure with his bricks which resembles nothing 
whatever, he will say, ' That shall be lindam.' " When he played 
at trains in the garden, there were many stations with fanciful 
names, and at one time he and two cousins had a word kukukounen 
which they repeated constantly and thought great fun, but whose 
inner meaning I never succeeded in discovering. An English 
friend writes about his daughter : " When she was about two 
and a quarter she would often use some nonsense word in the 
middle of a perfectly intelligible sentence. When you asked her 
its meaning she would explain it by another equally unintelli- 
gible, and so on through a series as long as you cared to make 
it." At 2.10 she pretended she had lost her bricks, and when 
you showed her that they were just by her, she insisted that 
they were not ' bricks ' at all, but mums. 


In all accounts of children's talk you find words which cannot 
be referred back to the normal language, but which have cropped 
up from some unsounded depth of the child's soul. I give a few 
from notes sent to me by Danish friends : goi ' comb,' putput 
1 stocking, or any other piece of garment,' i-a-a ' chocolate,' 
gon ' water to drink, milk ' (kept apart from the usual word vand 
for water, which she used only for water to wash in), hesh ' news- 
paper, book.' Some such words have become famous in psycho- 
logical literature because they were observed by Darwin and 
Taine. Among less famous instances from other books I may 
mention tibu ' bird ' (Strumpel), adi ' cake ' (Ament), be'lum-be'lum 
' toy with two men turning about,' wakaka ' soldier,' nda 'jar,' 
pamma ' pencil,' 6mm ' stocking ' (Meringer). 

An American correspondent writes that his boy was fond of 
pushing a stick over the carpet after the manner of a carpet- 
sweeper and called the operation jazing. He coined the word 
borkens as a name for a particular sort of blocks with which he 
was accustomed to play. He was a nervous child and his imagina- 
tion created objects of terror that haunted him in the dark, and to 
these he gave the name of Boons. This name may, however, be 
derived from baboons. Mr. Harold Palmer tells me that his 
daughter (whose native language was French) at an early age 
used ['fu'we] for ' soap ' and [de'det/] for ' horse, wooden horse, 
merry-go-round . ' 

Dr. F. Poulsen, in his book Bejser og rids (Copenhagen, 1920), 
says about his two-year-old daughter that when she gets hold 
of her mother's fur-collar she will pet it and lavish on it all kinds 
of tender self -invented names, such as apu or a-fo-me-me. The latter 
word, " which has all the melodious euphony and vague signification 
of primitive language," is applied to anything that is rare and 
funny and worth rejoicing at. On a summer day's excursion there 
was one new a-fo-me-me after the other. 

In spite of all this, a point on which all the most distinguished 
investigators of children's language of late years are agreed is 
that children never invent words. Wundt goes so far as to say 
that " the child's language is the result of the child's environment, 
the child being essentially a passive instrument in the matter " 
(S 1. 296) one of the most wrong-headed sentences I have ever 
read in the works of a great scientist. Meumann says : " Preyer 
and after him almost every careful observer among child-psycholo- 
gists have strongly held the view that it is impossible to speak 
of a child inventing a word." Similarly Meringer, L 220, Stern, 
126, 273, 337 ff., Bloomfield, SL 12. 

These investigators seem to have been led astray by expressions 
such as ' shape out of nothing,' ' invent/ ' original creation ' 


(Urschopfung), and to have taken this doctrinaire attitude in 
partial defiance of the facts they have themselves advanced. 
Expressions like those adduced occur over and over again in their 
discussions, and Meumann says openly : " Invention demands a 
methodical proceeding with intention, a conception of an end to 
be realized." Of course, if that is necessary it is clear that we 
can speak of invention of words in the case of a chemist seeking 
a word for a new substance, and not in the case of a tiny child. 
But are there not many inventions in the technical world, which 
we do not hesitate to call inventions, which have come about 
more or less by chance ? Wasn't it so probably with gunpowder ? 
According to the story it certainly was so with blotting-paper : 
the foreman who had forgotten to add size to a portion of writing- 
paper was dismissed, but the manufacturer who saw that the paper 
thus spoilt could be turned to account instead of the sand hitherto 
used made a fortune. So according to Meumann blotting-paper 
has never been ' invented.' If in order to acknowledge a child's 
creation of a word we are to postulate that it has been produced 
out of nothing, what about bicycles, fountain-pens, typewriters 
each of which was something existing before, carried just a little 
further ? Are they on that account not inventions ? One would 
think not, when one reads these writers on children's language, 
for as soon as the least approximation to a word in the normal 
language is discovered, the child is denied both ' invention ' and 
* the speech-forming faculty ' ! Thus Stern (p. 338) says that 
his daughter in her second year used some words which might 
be taken as proof of the power to create words, but for the fact 
that it was here possible to show how these ' new ' words had grown 
out of normal words. Eischei, for instance, was used as a verb 
meaning ' go, walk,' but it originated in the words eins, zwei (one, 
two) which were said when the child was taught to walk. Other 
examples are given comparable to those mentioned above (106, 115) 
as mutilations of the first period. Now, even if all those words 
given by myself and others as original inventions of children 
could be proved to be similar perversions of ' real ' words (which 
is not likely), I should not hesitate to speak of a word-creating 
faculty, for eischei, ' to walk,' is both in form and still more in 
meaning far enough from eins, zwei to be reckoned a totally 
new word. 

We can divide words ' invented ' by children into three classes : 

A. The child gives both sound and meaning. 

B. The grown-up people give the sound, and the child the 


C. The child gives the sound, grown-up people the meaning. 


But the three classes cannot always be kept apart, especially 
when the child imitates the grown-up person's sound so badly or 
seizes the meaning so imperfectly that very little is left of what 
the grown-up person gives. As a rule, the self-created words 
will be very short-lived ; still, there are exceptions. 

O'Shea's account of one of these words is very instructive. 
" She had also a few words of her own coining which were attached 
spontaneously to objects, and these her elders took up, and they 
became fixed in her vocabulary for a considerable period. A word 
resembling Ndobbin was employed for every sort of thing which 
she used for food. The word came originally from an accidental 
combination of sounds made while she was eating. By the aid 
of the people about her in responding to this term and repeating 
it, she ' selected ' it and for a time used it purposefully. She 
employed it at the outset for a specific article of food ; then her 
elders extended it to other articles, and this aided her in making 
the extension herself. Once started in this process, she extended 
the term to many objects associated with her food, even objects 
as remote from her original experience as dining-room, high-chair, 
kitchen, and even apple and plum trees " (O'Shea, 27). 

To Class A I assign most of the words already given as the 
child's creations, whether the child be great or small. 

Class B is that which is most sparsely represented. A child 
in Finland often heard the well-known line about King Karl 
(Charles XII), " Han stod i rok och damm " (" He stood in smoke 
and dust "), and taking ro to be the adjective meaning ' red,' imagined 
the remaining syllables, which he heard as kordamm, to be the 
name of some piece of garment. This amused his parents so much 
that kordamm became the name of a dressing-gown in that family. 

To Class C, where the child contributes only the sound and 
the older people give a meaning to what on the child's side was 
meaningless a process that reminds one of the invention of 
blotting-paper belong some of the best-known words, which 
require a separate section. 

Vm. 8. 'Mamma' and 'Papa.' 

In the nurseries of all countries a little comedy has in all ages 
been played the baby lies and babbles his ' mamama ' or 
' amama ' or ' papapa ' or ' apapa ' or ' bababa ' or ' ababab ' 
without associating the slightest meaning with his mouth-games, 
and his grown-up friends, in their joy over the precocious child, 
assign to these syllables a rational sense, accustomed as they are 
themselves to the fact of an uttered sound having a content, a 
thought, an idea, corresponding to it. So we get a whole class 

8J 'MAMMA' AND 'PAPA' 155 

of words, distinguished by a simplicity of sound-formation never 
two consonants together, generally the same consonant repeated 
with an a between, frequently also with an a at the end words 
found in many languages, often in different forms, but with 
essentially the same meaning. 

First we have words for ' mother.' It is very natural that 
the mother who is greeted by her happy child with the sound 
* mama ' should take it as though the child were calling her ' mama,' 
and since she frequently comes to the cradle when she hears the 
sound, the child himself does learn to use these syllables when 
he wants to call her. In this way they become a recognized word 
for the idea ' mother ' now with the stress on the first syllable, 
now on the second. In French we get a nasal vowel either in 
the last syllable only or in both syllables. At times we have only 
one syllable, ma. When once these syllables have become a regular 
word they follow the speech laws which govern other words ; thus 
among other forms we get the German muhme, the meaning of which 
{' ('aunt') is explained as in the words mentioned, p. 118. Inveryearly 
times ma in our group of languages was supplied with a termination, 
so that we get the form underlying Greek meter, Lat, mater (whence 
Fr. mere, etc.), our own mother, G. mutter, etc. These words 
became the recognized grown-up words, while mama itself was 
only used in the intimacy of the family. It depends on fashion, 
however, how ' high up ' mama can be used : in some countries 
and in some periods children are allowed to use it longer than 
in others. 

The forms mama and ma are not the only ones for ' mother.' 
The child's am has also been seized and maintained by the grown- 
ups. The Albanian word for ' mother ' is ama, the Old Norse 
word for ' grandmother ' is amma. The Latin am-ita, formed from 
am with a termination added, came to mean ' aunt ' and became 
in OFr. ante, whence E. aunt and Modern Fr. tante. In Semitic 
languages the words for ' mother ' also have a vowel before m : 
Assyrian ummu, Hebrew 'em, etc. 

Baba, too, is found in the sense ' mother,' especially in Slavonic 
languages, though it has here developed various derivative mean- 
ings, ' old woman,' ' grandmother,' or ' midwife.' In Tonga we 
have bama ' mother.' 

Forms with n are also found for ' mother ' ; so Sanskrit nand, 
Albanian nane. Here we have also Gr. nanne ' aunt ' and Lat. 
nonna ; the latter ceased in the early Middle Ages to mean ' grand- 
mother ' and became a respectful way of addressing women of a 
certain age, whence we know it as nun, the feminine counterpart 
of ' monk.' From less known languages I may mention Green- 
laudic a'na-na ' mother,' Ja-na ; grandmother.' 


Now we come to words meaning ' father,' and quite naturally, 
where the sound-groups containing m have already been inter- 
preted in the sense * mother,' a word for ' father ' will be sought 
in the syllables with p. It is no doubt frequently noticed in the 
nursery that the baby says mama where one expected papa, and 
vice versa ; but at last he learns to deal out the syllables ' rightly,' 
as we say. The history of the forms papa, pappa and pa is analo- 
gous to the history of the m syllables already traced. We have 
the same extension of the sound by tr in the word pater, which 
according to recognized laws of sound-change is found in the 
French pere, the English father, the Danish fader, the German 
voter, etc. Philologists no longer, fortunately, derive these words 
from a root pa ' to protect,' and see therein a proof of the ' highly 
moral spirit ' of our aboriginal ancestors, as Fick and others did. 
Papa, as we know, also became an honourable title for a reverend 
ecclesiastic, and hence comes the name which we have in the 
form Pope. 

Side by side with the p forms we have forms in b Italian 
babbo, Bulgarian babd, Serbian bdba, Turkish baba. Beginning 
with the vowel we have the Semitic forms ab, abu and finally abba, 
which is well known, since through Greek abbas it has become the 
name for a spiritual father in all European languages, our form 
being Abbot. 

Again, we have some names for * father ' with dental sounds : 
Sanskrit tatd, Russian tata, tyatya, Welsh tat, etc. The English 
dad, now so universal, is sometimes considered to have been bor- 
rowed from this Welsh word, which in certain connexions has an 
initial d, but no doubt it had an independent origin. In Slavonic 
languages did is extensively used for * grandfather ' or ' old man.' 
Thus also deite, teite in German dialects. Tata ' father ' is found 
in Congo and other African languages, also (tattd) in Negro- 
English (Surinam). And just as words for ' mother ' change their 
meaning from ' mother ' to * aunt,' so these forms in some lan- 
guages come to mean ' uncle ' : Gr. theios (whence Italian zio), 
Lithuanian dede, Russian dyadya. 

With an initial vowel we get the form alta, in Greek used in 
addressing old people, in Gothic the ordinary word for ' father,' 
which with a termination added gives the proper name Attila, 
originally ' little father ' ; with another ending we have Russian 
otec. Outside our own family of languages we find, for instance, 
Magyar atya, Turkish ata, Basque aita, Greenlandic a ] ta i ta ' father,' 
while in the last-mentioned language a'ta means ' grandfather.' * 

1 I subjoin a few additional examples. Basque aita ' father,' aina 
'mother,' anuyu 'brother' (Ztitsch. f. rom. Phil. 17, 146). Manchu ama 
father,' erne 'mother' (the vowel relation in haka 'man,' hehe ' woman,' 

8] 'MAMMA' AND 'PAPA' 157 

The nurse, too, comes in for her share in these names, as she 
too is greeted by the child's babbling and is tempted to take it 
as the child's name for her ; thus we get the German and Scandi- 
navian amme, Polish niania, Russian nyanya, cf. our Nanny. 
These words cannot be kept distinct from names for ' aunt/ cf. 
amita above, and in Sanskrit we find mama for ' uncle.' 

It is perhaps more doubtful if we can find a name for the 
child itself which has arisen in the same way ; the nearest example 
is the Engl. babe, baby, German bube (with u as in muhme above) j 
but babe has also been explained as a word derived normally from 
OFr. baube, from Lat. balbus ' stammering.' When the name 
Bab or Babs (Babbe in a Danish family) becomes the pet-name 
for a little girl, this has no doubt come from an interpretation 
put on her own meaningless sounds. Ital. bambo (bambino) cer- 
tainly belongs here. We may here mention also some terms for 
' doll,' Lat. pupa or puppa, G. puppe ; with a derivative ending 
we have Fr. poupee, E. puppet (Chaucer, A 3254, popelote). These 
words have a rich semantic development, cf. pupa (Dan. puppe, 
etc.) ' chrysalis,' and the diminutive Lat. pupillus, pupilla, which 
was used for ' a little child, minor,' whence E. pupil ' disciple,' 
but also for the little child seen in the eye, whence E. (and other 
languages) pupil, ' central opening of the eye.' 

A child has another main interest that is, in its food, the 
breast, the bottle, etc. In many countries it has been observed 
that very early a child uses a long m (without a vowel) as a sign 
that it wants something, but we can hardly be right in supposing 
that the sound is originally meant by children in this sense. They 
do not use it consciously till they see that grown-up people on 
hearing the sound come up and find out what the child wants. 
And it is the same with the developed forms which are uttered 
by the child in its joy at getting something to eat, and which are 
therefore interpreted as the child's expression for food : am, mam, 
mammam, or the same words with a final a that is, really the same 
groups of sounds which came to stand for ' mother.' The deter- 
mination of a particular form to a particular meaning is always 
due to the adults, who, however, can subsequently teach it to the 
child. Under this heading comes the sound ham, which Taine 
observed to be one child's expression for hunger or thirst (h mute ?), 
and similarly the word mum, meaning ' something to eat,' invented, 

Gabelentz, S 389). Kutenai pa- ' brother's daughter, 1 papa ' grandmother 
(said by male), grandfather, grandson,' patl 'nephew,' ma 'mother,' nana 
'younger sister' (of girl), alnana ' sisters,' tite 'mother-in-law,' titu 'father' 
(of male) (Boas, Kutenai Tales, Bureau of Am. Ethnol. 59, 1918). Cf. 
also Sapir, " Kinship Terms of the Kootenay Indians " (Amer. Anthropologist, 
vol. 20). In the same writer's Tana Terms of Relationship (Univ. of Cali- 
fornia, 1918) there seems to be very little from this source. 


as we are told, by Darwin's son and often uttered with a rising 
intonation, as in a question, ' Will you give me something to eat ? ' 
Lindner's child (1.5) is said to have used papp for everything 
eatable and m&m or mom for anything drinkable. In normal 
language we have forms like Sanskrit mdmsa (Gothic mimz) and 
mas ' flesh,' our own meat (which formerly, like Dan. mad, meant 
any kind of food), German mus ' jam ' (whence also gemiise), and 
finally Lat. mandere and manducare ' to chew ' (whence Fr. manger) 
all developments of this childish ma(m). 

As the child's first nourishment is its mother's breast, its joyous 
mamama can also be taken to mean the breast. So we have the 
Latin mamma (with a diminutive ending mammilla, whence 
Fr. mamelle), and with the other labial sound Engl. pap, Nor- 
wegian and Swed. dial, pappe, Lat. papilla; with a different vowel, 
It. poppa, Fr. poupe, ' teat of an animal, formerly also of a woman ' ; 
with b, G. biibbi, obsolete E. bubby ; with a dental, E. teat (G. zitze), 
Ital. tetta, Dan. titte, Swed. dial, tatte. Further we have words 
like E. pap ' soft food,' Latin papare ' to eat,' orig. ' to suck,' 
and some G. forms for the same, pappen, pampen, pampfen. 
Perhaps the beginning of the word milk goes back to the baby's 
ma applied to the mother's breast or milk ; the latter half may 
then be connected with Lat. lac. In Greenlandic we have ama-ma 
* suckle.' 

Inseparable from these words is the sound, a long m or am, 
which expresses the child's delight over something that tastes 
good ; it has by-forms in the Scotch nyam or nyamnyam, the English 
seaman's term yam ' to eat,' and with two dentals the French 
nanan ' sweetmeats.' Some linguists will have it that the Latin 
amo ' I love ' is derived from this am, which expresses pleasurable 
satisfaction. When a father tells me that his son (1.10) uses 
the wonderful words nanancei for ' chocolate ' and jajajaja for 
picture-book, we have no doubt here also a case of a grown 
person's interpretation of the originally meaningless sounds of 
a child. 

Another meaning that grown-up people may attach to syllables 
uttered by the child is that of ' good-bye,' as in English tata, which 
has now been incorporated in the ordinary language. 1 Stern 
probably is right when he thinks that the French adieu would 
not have been accepted so commonly in Germany and other 
countries if it had not accommodated itself so easily, especially 
in the form commonly used in German, ode, to the child's natural 

1 Tata is also used for ' a walk ' (to go out for a ta-ta, or to go out ta-tas) 
and for ' a hat ' meanings that may very well have developed from the 
child's saying these syllables when going out or preparing to go out. 

8] 'MAMMA' AND 'PAPA' 159 

There are some words for ' bed, sleep ' which clearly belong 
to this class : Tuscan nanna ' cradle,' Sp. hacer la nana ' go to 
sleep,' E. bye-bye (possibly associated with good-bye, instead of 
which is also said byebye) ; Stern mentions baba (Berlin), beibei 
(Russian), 6060 (Malay), but bischbisch, which he also gives here, 
is evidently (like the Danish visse) imitative of the sound used for 

Words of this class stand in a way outside the common words 
of a language, owing to their origin and their being continually 
new-created. One cannot therefore deduce laws of sound-change 
from them in their original shape ; and it is equally wrong to use 
them as evidence for an original kinship between different families 
of language and to count them as loan-words, as is frequently 
done (for example, when the Slavonic baba is said to be borrowed 
from Turkish). The English papa and mam(m)a, and the same 
words in German and Danish, Italian, etc., are almost always 
regarded as borrowed from French ; but Cauer rightly points out 
that Nausikaa (Odyssey 6. 57) addresses her father as pappa fil, 
and Homer cannot be suspected of borrowing from French. Still, 
it is true that fashion may play a part in deciding how long children 
;imay be permitted to say papa and mamma, and a French fashion 
imay in this respect have spread to other European countries, 
especially in the seventeenth century. We may not find these 
words in early use in the literatures of the different countries, but 
this is no proof that the words were not used in the nursery. As 
Isoon as a word of this class has somewhere got a special application, 
this can very well pass as a loan-word from land to land as we 
saw in the case of the words abbot and pope. And it may be 
granted with respect to the primary use of the words that there 
are certain national or quasi-national customs which determine 
what grown people expect to hear from babies, so that one nation 
expects and recognizes papa, another dad, a third atta, for the 
meaning 'father.' 

When the child hands something to somebody or reaches out 
for something he will generally say something, and if, as often 
happens, this is ta or da, it will be taken by its parents and others 
as a real word, different according to the language they speak ; 
in England as there or thanks, in Denmark as tak ' thanks ' 1 or 
tag ' take,' in Germany as da ' there,' in France as tiens ' hold,' 
in Russia as day ' give,' in Italy as to, (= togli) ' take.' The 
form te in Homer is interpreted by some as an imperative of 
teino 'stretch.' These instances, however, are slightly different 

1 The Swede Bolin says that his child said tatt-iatt. which he interpret* 
as tack, even when handing something to others. 


in character from those discussed in the main part of this 
chapter. 1 

1 The views advanced in 8 have some points in contact with the remarks 
found in Stern's ch. xix, p. 300, only that I lay more stress on the arbitrary 
interpretation of the child's meaningless syllables on the part of the grown- 
ups, and that I cannot approve his theory of the m syllables as ' centripetal ' 
and the p syllables as ' centrifugal affective- volitional natural sounds.' 
Paul (P 127) says that the nursery-language with its bowwow, papa, mama, 
etc., " is not the invention of the children ; it is handed over to them just 
as any other language " ; he overlooks the share children have themselves 
in these words, or in some of them ; nor are they, as he says, formed by 
the grown-ups with a purely pedagogical purpose. Nor can I find that 
Wundt's chapter " Angebliche worterfindung des kindes " (S 1. 273-287) 
contains decisive arguments. Curtius (K 88) thinks that Gr. pater was 
first shortened into pd and this then extended into pdppa but certainly 
it is rather the other way round. 



1. Conflicting Views. 2. Meringer. Analogy. 3. Herzog's Theory of 
Sound Changes. 4. Gradual Shiftings. 5. Leaps. 6. Assimila- 
tions, etc. 7. Stump -words. 

IX. 1. Conflicting Views. 
WE all know that in historical times languages have been con- 
stantly changing, and we have much indirect evidence that in 
prehistoric times they did the same thing. But when it is 
asked if these changes, unavoidable as they seem to be, are to be 
ascribed primarily to children and their defective imitation of 
the speech of their elders, or if children's language in general 
plays no part at all in the history of language, we find linguists 
expressing quite contrary views, without the question having 
ever been really thoroughly investigated. 

Some hold that the child acquires its language with such per- 
fection that it cannot be held responsible for the changes recorded 
in the history of languages : others, on the contrary, hold that 
the most important source of these changes is to be found in the 
transmission of the language to new generations. How undecided 
the attitude even of the foremost linguists may be towards the 
question is perhaps best seen in the views expressed at different 
times by Sweet. In 1882 he reproaches Paul with paying attention 
only to the shif tings going on in the pronunciation of the same 
individual, and not acknowledging " the much more potent cause 
of change which exists in the fact that one generation can learn 
the sounds of the preceding one by imitation only. It is an open 
question whether the modifications made by the individual in a 
sound he has once learnt, independently of imitation of those 
around him, are not too infinitesimal to have any appreciable 
effect" (CP 153). In the same spirit he asserted in 1899 that 
the process of learning our own language in childhood is a very 
slow one, " and the results are always imperfect. ... If languages 
were learnt perfectly by the children of each generation, then 
languages would not change : English children would still speak 
a language as old at least as ' Anglo-Saxon,' and there would be 

11 Kl 


no such languages as French and Italian. The changes in languages 
are simply slight mistakes, which in the course of generations 
completely alter the character of the language " (PS 75). But 
only one year later, in 1900, he maintains that the child's imitation 
"is in most cases practically perfect " " the main cause of 
sound -change must therefore be sought elsewhere. The real 
cause of sound-change seems to be organic shifting failure to hit 
the mark, the result either of carelessness or sloth ... a slight 
deviation from the pronunciation learnt in infancy may easily 
pass unheeded, especially by those who make the same change 
in their own pronunciation " (H 19 f.). By the term " organic 
shifting " Sweet evidently, as seen from his preface, meant shifting 
in the pronunciation of the adult, thus a modification of the sound 
learnt ' perfectly ' in childhood. Paul, who in the first edition 
(1880) of his Prinzipien der Sprachgeschichte did not mention 
the influence of children, in all the following editions (2nd, 1886, 
p. 58 ; 3rd, 1898, p. 58 ; 4th, 1909, p. 63) expressly says that 
" die hauptveranlassung zum lautwandel in der iibertragung der 
laute auf neue individuen liegt," while the shif tings within the 
same generation are very slight. Paul thus modified his view in 
the opposite direction of Sweet 1 and did so under the influence 
of Sweet's criticism of his own first view ! 

When one finds scholars expressing themselves in this manner 
and giving hardly any reasons for their views, one is tempted to 
believe that the question is perhaps insoluble, that it is a mere 
toss-up, or that in the sentence " children's imitation is nearly 
perfect " the stress may be laid, according to taste, now on the word 
nearly, and now on the word perfect. I am, however, convinced that 
we can get a little farther, though only by breaking up the question, 
instead of treating it as one vague and indeterminate whole. 

IX. 2. Meringer. Analogy. 

Among recent writers Meringer has gone furthest into the 
question, adhering in the main to the general view that, just as 
in other fields, social, economic, etc., it is grown-up men who 
take the lead in new developments, so it is grown-up men, and 
not women or children, who carry things forward in the field of 

1 The same inconsistency is found in Dauzat, who in 1910 thought that 
nothing, and in 1912 that nearly everything, was due to imperfect imitation 
by the child (V 22 ff., Ph 53, cf. 3). Wechssler (L p. 86) quotes passages 
from Bremer, Passy, Rousselot and Wallenskold, in which the chief cause 
of sound changes is attributed to the child ; to these might be added Storm 
(Phonetische Studien, 5. 200) and A. Thomson (IF 24, 1909, p. 9), probably 
also Grammont (Mel. linguist. 61). Many writers seem to imagine that 
the question is settled when they are able to adduce a certain numbor of 
parallel changes in the pronunciation of aouie child and in the historical 
evolution of languages. 


(language. In one place he justifies his standpoint by a reference 
to a special case, and I will take this as the starting-point of my 
;Dwn consideration of the question. He says : "It can be shown 
by various examples that they [changes in language] are decidedly 
JQot due to children. In Ionic, Attic and Lesbian Greek the 
iwords for ' hundreds ' are formed in -kosioi (diakosioi, etc.), while 
slsewhere (in Doric and Boeotian) they appear as -Mtioi. How 
<does the o arise in -fofotot ? It is generally said that it comes 
(from o in the ' tens ' in the termination -konta. Can it be children 
who have formed the words for hundreds on the model of the 
! words for tens, children under six years old, who are just learning 
'to talk ? Such children generally have other things to attend 
to than to practise themselves in numerals above a hundred." 
Similar formations are adduced from Latin, and it is stated that 
the personal pronouns are especially subject to change, but children 
do not use the personal pronouns till an age when they are already 
in firm possession of the language. Meringer then draws the 
conclusion that the share which children take in bringing about 
linguistic change is a very small one. 

Now, I should like first to remark that even if it is possible to 
point to certain changes in language which cannot be ascribed 
to little children, this proves nothing with regard to the very 
Dumerous changes which lie outside these limits. And next, 
that all the cases here mentioned are examples of formation by 
analogy. But from the very nature of the case, the conditions 
requisite for the occurrence of such formations are exactly the 
same in the case of adults and in that of the children. For what 
are the conditions ? Some one feels an impulse to express some- 
thing, and at the moment has not got the traditional form at 
command, and so is driven to evolve a form of his own from the 
rest of the linguistic material. It makes no difference whether 
he has never heard a form used by other people which expresses 
what he wants, or whether he has heard the traditional form, 
but has not got it ready at hand at the moment. The method of 
procedure is exactly the same whether it takes place in a three- 
year-old or in an eighty-three-j'ear-old brain : it is therefore 
senseless to put the question whether formations by analogy are 
or are not due to children. A formation by analogy is by 
definition a non-traditional form. It is therefore idle to ask if 
it is due to the fact that the language is transmitted from generation 
ito generation and to the child's imperfect repetition of what has 
'been transmitted to it, and Meringer's argument thus breaks 
down in every respect. 

It must not, of course, be overlooked that children naturally 
come to invent more formations by analogy than grown-up people, 


because the latter in many cases have heard the older forms so 
often that they find a place in their speech without any effort 
being required to recall them. But that does not touch the 
problem under discussion ; besides, formations by analogy are 
unavoidable and indispensable, in the talk of all, even of the 
most ' grown-up ' : one cannot, indeed, move in language without 
having recourse to forms and constructions that are not directly 
and fully transmitted to us : speech is not alone reproduction, 
but just as much new-production, because no situation and no 
impulse to communication is in every detail exactly the same 
as what has occurred on earlier occasions. 

IX. 3. Herzog's Theory of Sound Changes. 

If, leaving the field of analogical changes, we begin to inquire 
whether the purely phonetic changes can or must be ascribed to 
the fact that a new generation has to learn the mother-tongue 
by imitation, we shall first have to examine an interesting theory 
in which the question is answered in the affirmative, at least with 
regard to those phonetic changes which are gradual and not 
brought about all at once ; thus, when in one particular language 
one vowel, say [e*], is pronounced more and moie closely till 
finally it becomes [r], as has happened in E. see formerly pro- 
nounced [se'j with the same vowel as in G. see, now [si 1 ]. E. 
Herzog maintains that such changes happen through transference 
to new generations, even granted that the children imitate the 
sound of the grown-up people perfectly. For, it is said, children 
with their little mouths cannot produce acoustically the same 
sound as adults, except by a different position of the speech- 
organs ; this position they keep for the rest of their lives, so that 
when they are grown-up and their mouth is of full size they produce 
a rather different sound from that previously heard which altered 
sound is again imitated by the next generation with yet another 
position of the organs, and so on. This continuous play of 
generation v. generation may be illustrated in this way : 

ARTICULATION corresponding to SOUND. 

fyoung Al . . . . . . SI 

1st generation^ Al S2 

.. fyoung A2 .. . . S2 
2nd generation^ A2 g3 

fyoung A3 . . . . . . . . S3 

3rd generation^ " A3 84, etc.* 

1 See E. Herzog, Strcitfragen der roman. philologie, i. (1904), p. 67 I 
modify his symbols a little 


It is, however, easy to prove that this theory cannot be correct. 
(1) It is quite certain that the increase in size of the mouth is 
far less important than is generally supposed (see my Fonetik, 
p. 379 ff., PhG, p. 80 ff. ; cf. above, V 1). (2) It cannot be proved 
that people, after once learning one definite way of producing a 
sound, go on producing it in exactly the same way, even if the 
acoustic result is a different one. It is much more probable that 
each individual is constantly adapting himself to the sounds heard 
from those around him, even if this adaptation is neither as 
quick nor perhaps as perfect as that of children, who can very 
rapidly accommodate their speech to the dialect of new surround- 
ings : if very far-reaching changes are rare in the case of grown-up 
people, this proves nothing against such small adaptations as 
are here presupposed. In favour of the continual regulation of 
the sound through the ear may be adduced the fact that adults 
who become perfectly deaf and thus lose the control of sounds 
through hearing may come to speak in such a way that their 
words can hardly be understood by others. (3) The theory in 
question also views the relations between successive generations 
in a way that is far removed from the realities of life : from the 
wording one might easily imagine that there were living together 
at any given time only individuals of ages separated by, say, 
thirty years' distance, while the truth of the matter is that a 
child is normally surrounded by people of all ages and learns its 
language more or less from all of them, from Grannie down to 
little Dick from over the way, and that (as has already been 
remarked) its chief teachers are its own brothers and sisters and 
other playmates of about the same age as itself. If the theory 
were correct, there would at any rate be a marked difference 
in vowel-sounds between anyone and his grandfather, or, still 
more, great-grandfather : but nothing of the kind has ever been 
described. (4) The chief argument, however, against the theory 
is this, that were it true, then all shiftings of sounds at all times 
and in all languages would proceed in exactly the same direction. 
But this is emphatically contradicted by the history of language. 
T&e long a in English in one period was rounded and raised into 
o, as in OE. stan, na, ham, which have become stone, no, home ; 
but when a few centuries later new long a's had entered the 
language, they followed the opposite direction towards e, now 
[ei], as in name, male, take. Similarly in Danish, where an old 
stratum of long a's have become a, as in dl, gas, while a later stratum 
tends rather towards [ae], as in the present pronunciation of gade, 
hak, etc. At the same time the long a in Swedish tends towards 
the rounded pronunciation (cf . FT. Ame, pas) : in one sister language 
we thus witness a repetition of the old shifting, in the other a 


tendency in the opposite direction. And it is the same with all 
those languages which we can pursue far enough back : they all 
present the same picture of varying vowel shiftings in different 
directions, which is totally incompatible with Herzog's view. 

IX. 4. Gradual Shiftings. 

We shall do well to put aside such artificial theories and look 
soberly at the facts. When some sounds in one century go one 
way, and in another, another, while at times they remain long 
unchanged, it all rests on this, that for human habits of this sort 
there is no standard measure. Set a man to saw a hundred logs, 
measuring No. 2 by No. 1, No. 3 by No. 2, and so on, and you will 
see considerable deviations from the original measure perhaps 
all going in the same direction, so that No. 100 is very much 
longer than No. 1 as the result of the sum of a great many small 
deviations perhaps all going in the opposite direction ; but it 
is also possible that in a certain series he was inclined to make 
the logs too long, and in the next series too short, the two sets 
of deviations about balancing one another. 

It is much the same with the formation of speech sounds : 
at one moment, for some reason or other, in a particular mood, 
in order to lend authority or distinction to our words, we may 
happen to lower the jaw a little more, or to thrust the tongue a 
little more forward than usual, or inversely, under the influence 
of fatigue or laziness, or to sneer at someone else, or because we 
have a cigar or potato in our mouth, the movements of the jaw 
or of the tongue may fall short of what they usually are. We 
have all the while a sort of conception of an average pronunciation, 
of a normal degree of opening or of protrusion, which we aim 
at, but it is nothing very fixed, and the only measure at our dis- 
posal is that we are or are not understood. What is understood 
is all right : what does not meet this requirement must be repeated 
with greater correctness as an answer to ' I beg your pardon ? ' 
Everyone thinks that he talks to-day just as he did yesterday, 
and, of course, he does so in nearly every point. But no one knows 
if he pronounces his mother-tongue in every respect in the same 
manner as he did twenty years ago. May we not suppose that what 
happens with faces happens here also ? One lives with a friend day 
in and day out, and he appears to be just what he was years ago, but 
someone who returns home after a long absence is at once struck 
by the changes which have gradually accumulated in the interval. 
Changes in the sounds of a language are not, indeed, so rapid 
as those in the appearance of an individual, for the simple reason 
that it is not enough for one man to alter his pronunciation, 


many must co-operate : the social nature and social aim of lan- 
guage has the natural consequence that all must combine in the 
same movement, or else one neutralizes the changes introduced 
by the other ; each individual also is continually under the influ- 
ence of his fellows, and involuntarily fashions his pronunciation 
according to the impression he is constantly receiving of other 
people's sounds. But as regards those little gradual shiftings of 
sounds which take place in spite of all this control and its con- 
servative influence, changes in which the sound and the articulation 
alter simultaneously, I cannot see that the transmission of the 
language to a new generation need exert any essential influence : 
we may imagine them being brought about equally well in a society 
which for hundreds of years consisted of the same adults who 
never died and had no issue. 

IX. 5. Leaps. 

While in the shiftings mentioned in the last paragraphs 
articulation and acoustic impression went side by side, it is 
different with some shiftings in which the old sound and the new 
resemble one another to the ear, but differ in the position of the 
organs and the articulations. For instance when []?] as in E. 
thick becomes [f] and [5] as in E. mother becomes [v], one can 
hardly conceive the change taking place in the pronunciation of 
people who have learnt the right sound as children. It is very 
natural, on the other hand, that children should imitate the 
harder sound by giving the easier, which is very like it, and which 
they have to use in many other words : forms like fru for through, 
uriv, muwer for with, mother, are frequent in the mouths of children 
long before they begin to make their appearance in the speech 
of adults, where they are now beginning to be very frequent in 
the Cockney dialect. (Cf. MEG i. 13. 9.) The same transition is 
met with in Old Fr., where we have miief from modu, nif from 
nidu, fief from feodu, seif, now sot/, from site, estrif (E. strife) from 
stridh, glaive from gladiu, parvis from paradis, and possibly avoutre 
from adulteru, poveir, now pouvoir, from potere. In Old Gothonic 
we have the transition from ]? to / before I, as in Goth, plaque = 
MHG. vlach, Goth. lplaihan=OILG. flehan, ]>liuhan=QILG. fliohan ; 
cf. also E. file, G. feileQN. Tpel, OE. Tpengel and fengel ' prince,' 
and probably G.finster, cf. OHG. dinstar (with d from }>), OE. }>eostre. 
In Latin we have the same transition, e.g. in fumus, corresponding 
to Sansk. dhumds, Gr. thumos. 1 

1 In Russian Marfa, Fyodor, etc., we also have / corresponding to original 
P, but in this case it is not a transition within one and the same language, 
but an imperfect imitation on the part of the (adult !) Russians of a sound 
in a foreign language (Greek th) which was not found in their own language 


The change from the back-open consonant [x] the sound in 
G. buck and Scotch loch to /, which has taken place in enough, 
cough, etc., is of the same kind. Here clearly we have no gradual 
passage, but a jump, which could hardly take place in the case 
of those who had already learnt how to pronounce the back 
sound, but is easily conceivable as a case of defective imitation 
on the part of a new generation. I suppose that the same remark 
holds good with regard to the change from kw to p, which is found 
in some languages, for instance, Gr. hippos, corresponding to Lat. 
eqmts, Gr. hepomai=^La,i>. sequor, Mpar=1ia,t. jecur ; Rumanian 
apa from Lat. aqua, Welsh map, ' son '=Gaelic mac, pedwarlT. 
cathir, 'four,' etc. In France I have heard children say [pizin] 
and [pidin] for cuisine. 

IX. 6. Assimilations, etc. 

There is an important class of sound changes which have 
this in common with the class just treated, that the changes take 
place suddenly, without an intermediate stage being possible, as 
in the changes considered in IX 4. I refer to those cases 
of assimilation, loss of consonants in heavy groups and trans- 
position (metathesis), with which students of language are familiar 
in all languages. Instances abound in the speech of all children ; 
see above, V 4. 

If now we dared to assert that such pronunciations are never 
heard from people who have passed their babyhood, we should 
here have found a field in which children have exercised a great 
influence on the development of language : but of course we 
cannot say anything of the sort. Any attentive observer can 
testify to the frequency of such mispronunciations in the speech 
of grown-up people. In many cases they are noticed neither by 
the speaker nor by the hearer, in many they may be noticed, but 
are considered too unimportant to be corrected, and finally, in 
some cases the speaker stops to repeat what he wanted to say in 
a corrected form. Now it would not obviously do, from their 
frequency in adult speech, to draw the inference : " These changes 
are not to be ascribed to children," because from their frequent 
appearance on the lips of the children one could equally well infer : 
" They are not to be ascribed to grown-up people." When we 
find in Latin impotens and immeritus with m side by side with 
indignus and insolitus with n, or when English handkerchief is 
pronounced with [^k] instead of the original [ndk], the change 
is not to be charged against children or grown-up people exclu- 
sively, but against both parties together : and so when t is lost 
in waistcoat [weskat], or postman or castle, or k in asked. There 


is certainly this difference, that when the change is made by older 
people, we get in the speech of the same individual first the heavier 
and then the easier form, while the child may take up the easier 
pronunciation first, because it hears the [n] before a lip consonant 
as [m], and before a back consonant as [y] t or because it fails 
altogether to hear the middle consonant in waistcoat, postman, 
castle and asked. But all this is clearly of purely theoretical 
interest, and the result remains that the influence of the two 
classes, adults and children, cannot possibly be separated in this 
domain. 1 

IX. 7. Stump-words. 

Next we come to those changes which result in what one may 
call 'stump- words.' There is no doubt that words may undergo 
violent shortenings both by children and adults, but here I believe 
we can more or less definitely distinguish between their respective 
contributions to the development of language. If it is the end 
of the word that is kept, while the beginning is dropped, it is 
probable that the mutilation is due to children, who, as we have 
seen (VII 7), echo the conclusion of what is said to them and 
forget the beginning or fail altogether to apprehend it. So we 
get a number of mutilated Christian names, which can then be 
used by grown-up people as pet-names. Examples are Bert for 
Herbert or Albert, Bella for Arabella, Sander for Alexander, Lottie 
for Charlotte, Trix for Beatrix, and with childlike sound-substitu- 
tion Bess (and Bet, Betty) for Elizabeth. Similarly in other 
languages, from Danish I may mention Bine for Jakobine, Line 
for Karoline, Stine for Kristine, Dres for Andres : there are many 

If this way of shortening a word is natural to a child who 
hears the word for the first time and is not able to remember 
the beginning when he comes to the end of it, it is quite different 
when others clip words which they know perfectly well : they 
will naturally keep the beginning and stop before they are half 
through the word, as soon as they are sure that their hearers 
understand what is alluded to. Dr. Johnson was not the only 
one who " had a way of contracting the names of his friends, as 
Beauclerc, Beau ; Boswell, Bozzy ; Langton, Lanky ; Murphy, 
Mur ; Sheridan, Sherry ; and Goldsmith, Goldy, which Gold- 

1 Reduplications and assimilations at a distance, as in Fr. tante from 
the older ante (whence E. aunt, from Lat. amita) and porpentine (frequent 
in this and analogous forms in Elizabethan writers) for porcupine (porkepine, 
porke&pine) are different from the ordinary assimilations of neighbouring 
sounds in occurring much less frequently in the speech of adults than it) 
children ; cf. f however, below, Ch. XV 4, 


smith resented " (Boswell, Life, ed. P. Fitzgerald, 1900, i. 486). 
Thackeray constantly says Pen for Arthur Pendennis, Cos for 
Costigan, Fo for Foker, Pop for Popjoy, old Col for Colchicum. 
In the beginning of the last century Napoleon Bonaparte was 
generally called Nap or Boney ; later we have such shortened 
names of public characters as Dizzy for Disraeli, Pam for Palmerston, 
Lobby for Labouchere, etc. These evidently are due to adults, 
and so are a great many other clippings, some of which have 
completely ousted the original long words, such as mob for mobile, 
brig for brigantine, fad for fadaise, cab for cabriolet, navvy for 
navigator, while others are still felt as abbreviations, such as 
photo for photograph, pub for public-house, caps for capital letters, 
spec for speculation, sov for sovereign, zep for Zeppelin, divvy 
for dividend, hip for hypochondria, the Cri and the Pav for the 
Criterion and the Pavilion, and many other clippings of words 
which are evidently far above the level of very small children. 
The same is true of the abbreviations in which school and college 
slang abounds, words like Gfym(nastics), undergraduate), trig- 
(onometry), Zo6(oratory), raa^n'c(ulation), preparation), the Guv 
for the governor, etc. v The same remark is true of similar 
clippings in other languages, such as kilo for kilogram, G. ober 
for oberkellner, French amto(crate), razc(tionnaire), college terms 
like desse for descriptive (geometric d.), philo for philosophic, 
preu for premier, seu for second ; Danish numerals like tres 
for tresindstyve (60), holvfjerds(indatyve), firs(mdstyve). We are 
certainly justified in extending the principle that abbreviation 
through throwing away the end of the word is due to those who 
have previously mastered the full form, to the numerous instances 
of shortened Christian names like Fred for Frederick, Em for 
Emily, A lee for Alexander, Di for Diana, Vic for Victoria, etc. 
In other languages we find similar clippings of names more or less 
carried through systematically, e.g. Greek Zeuxis for Zeuxippos, 
Old High German Wolfo for Wolfbrand, Wolfgang, etc., Icelandic 
Sigga for SigriSr, Siggi for SigurSr, etc. 

I see a corroboration of my theory in the fact that there are 
hardly any family names shortened by throwing away the begin- 
ning : children as a rule have no use for family names. 1 The 
rule, however, is not laid down as absolute, but only as holding 
in the main. Some of the exceptions are easily accounted for. 
'Cello for violoncello undoubtedly is an adults' word, originating 

1 Karl Sundeii, in hie diligent and painstaking book on Elliptical Words 
in Modern English (Upsala, 1904) [i.e. clipped proper names, for common 
names are not treated in the long lists given], mentions only two examples 
of surnames in which the final part is kept (Bart for Islebart, Piggy for 
Guineapig, from obscure novels), though he has scores of examples in which 
the beginning is preserved. 


in France or Italy : but here evidently it would not do to take 
the beginning, for then there would be confusion with violin 
(violon). Phone for telephone: the beginning might just as well 
stand for telegraph. Van for caravan : here the beginning would 
be identical with car. Bus, which made its appearance immediately 
after the first omnibus was started in the streets of London 
(1829), probably was thought expressive of the sound of these 
vehicles and suggested bustle. But bacco (baccer, baccy) for tobacco 
and taters for potatoes belong to a different sphere altogether : 
they are not clippings of the usual sort, but purely phonetic 
developments, in which the first vowel has been dropped in rapid 
pronunciation (as in / s'pose), and the initial voiceless stop has 
then become inaudible ; Dickens similarly writes 'tickerlerly as 
a vulgar pronunciation of particularly. 1 

1 It is often said that stress is decisive of what part is left out in word- 
clippings, and from an a priori point of view this is what we should expect. 
But as a matter of fact we find in many instances that syllables with weak 
stress are preserved, e.g. in Mac(donald), Pen(dennis), the Cri, Vir., Nap, 
Nat for Nathaniel (orig. pronounced with [t], not [\>~\), Val for Percival, 
Trix, etc. The middle is never kept as such with omission of the beginning 
and the ending ; Liz (whence Lizzy) has not arisen at one stroke from Eliza- 
beth, but mediately through Eliz. Some of the adults' clippings originate 
through abbreviations in writing, thus probably most of the college terms 
(exam, trig, etc.), thus also journalists' clippings like ad for advertisement, 
par for paragraph ; cf. also caps for capitals. On stump-vrcrcls see also 
below, Ch. XIV, 8 and 9. 


} 1. Confusion of Words. 2. Metanalysis. 3. Shillings of Meanings. 
4. Differentiations. 5. Summary. 6. Indirect Influence. 7. 
New Languages. 

X. 1. Confusion of Words. 

SOME of the most typical childish sound-substitutions can hardly 
be supposed to leave any traces in language as permanently 
spoken, because they are always thoroughly corrected by the 
children themselves at an early age ; among these I reckon the almost 
universal pronunciation of t instead of k. When, therefore, we 
do find that in some words a t has taken the place of an earlier 
k, we must look for some more specific cause of the change : but 
this may, in some cases at any rate, be found in a tendency of 
children's speech which is totally independent of the inability 
to pronounce the sound of k at an early age, and is, indeed, in 
no way to be reckoned among phonetic tendencies, namely, the 
confusion resulting from an association of two words of similar 
sound (cf. above, p. 122). This, I take it, is the explanation of 
the word mate in the sense ' husband or wife,' which has replaced 
the earlier make : a confusion was here natural, because the word 
mate, * companion,' was similar not only in sound, but also in 
signification. The older name for the ' soft roe ' of fishes was 
milk (as Dan. mcelk, G. milch), but from the fifteenth century 
milt has been substituted for it, as if it were the same organ as 
the milt, 'the spleen.' Children will associate words of similar 
sound even in cases where there is no connecting link in their 
significations ; thus we have bat for earlier bak, bakke (the animal, 
vespertilio), though the other word bat, * a stick,' is far removed 
in sense. 

I think we must explain the following cases of isolated sound- 
substitution as due to the same confusion with unconnected words 
in the minds of children hearing the new words for the first time : 
trunk in the sense of * proboscis of an elephant,' formerly trump, 
from FT. trompe, confused with trunk, ' stem of a tree ' ; stark- 
naked, formerly start-naked, from start, ' tail,' confused with stark, 
' stilT ' ; vent, ' air-hole,' from Fr. fcnte, confused with vent, 



' breath ' (for this v cannot be due to the Southern dialectal transi- 
tion from /, as in vat from fat, for that transition does not, as a rule, 
take place in French loans) ; cocoa for cocao, confused with coco- 
nut ; match, from FT. meche, by confusion with the other match ; 
chine, 'rim of cask,' from chime, cf. G. kimme, ' border,' confused 
with chine, ' backbone.' I give some of these examples with a 
little diffidence, though I have no doubt of the general principle 
of childish confusion of unrelated words as one of the sources of 
irregularities in the development of sounds. 

These substitutions cannot of course be separated from 
instances of ' popular etymology,' as when the phrase to curry 
favour was substituted for the former to curry favel, where favel 
means * a fallow horse,' as the type of fraud or duplicity (cf . G. 
den fahlen hengst reiten, 'to act deceitfully,' einen aiif einem 
fahlex pferde ertappen, ' to catch someone lying '). 

X. 2. Metanalysis. 

We now come to the phenomenon for which I have ventured 
to coin the term ' metanalysis,' by which I mean that words or 
word-groups are by a new generation analyzed differently from 
the analysis of a former age. Each child has to find out for himself, 
in hearing the connected speech of other people, where one word 
ends and the next one begins, or what belongs to the kernel and 
what to the ending of a word, etc. (Vll 6). In most cases he 
will arrive at the same analysis as the former generation, but now 
and then he will put the boundaries in another place than formerly, 
and the new analysis may become general. A naddre (the ME. 
form for OE. an ncedre) thus became an adder, a napron became 
an apron, an nauger : an auger, a numpire : an umpire ; and in 
psychologically the same way an ewte (older form evete, OE. efete) 
became a neu-t : metanalysis accordingly sometimes shortens and 
sometimes lengthens a word. Biding as a name of one of the three 
districts of Yorkshire is due to a metanalysis of North Thriding 
(ON. Ipridjungr, ' third part '), as well as of East Thriding, West 
Thriding, after the sound of th had been assimilated to the 
preceding t. 

One of the most frequent forms of metanalysis consists in the 
subtraction of an s, which originally belonged to the kernel of a 
word, but is mistaken for the plural ending ; in this way we have 
pea instead of the earlier peas, pease, cherry for ME. cherris, Fr. 
cerise, asset from assets, Fr. assez, etc. Cf . also the vulgar Chinee, 
Portuguee, etc. 1 

1 See my MEG ii. 5. 6, and my paper on ' Subtraktionsdanreler, v in 
Featskrift til VUh. Thomson, 1894, p. 1 ff. 


The influence of a new generation is also seen in those cases 
in which formerly separate words coalesce into one, as when he 
breakfasts, he breakfasted, is said instead of he breaks fast, he broke 
fast ; cf . vouchsafe, don (third person, vouchsafes, dons), instead of 
vouch safe, do on (third person, vouches safe, does on). Here, too, 
it is not probable that a person who has once learnt the real form 
of a word, and thus knows where it begins and where it ends, 
should have subsequently changed it : it is much more likely that 
all such changes originate with children who have once made 
a wrong analysis of what they have heard and then go on repeating 
the new forms all their lives. 

X. 3. Shiftings of Meanings. 

Changes in the meaning of words are often so gradual that 
one cannot detect the different steps of the process, and changes 
of this sort, like the corresponding changes in the sounds of words, 
are to be ascribed quite as much to people already acquainted 
with the language as to the new generation. As examples we 
may mention the laxity that has changed the meaning of soon, 
which in OE. meant ' at once,' and in the same way of presently, 
originally ' at present, now,' and of the old anon. Dinner comes 
from OF. disner, which is the infinitive of the verb which in other 
forms was desjeun, whence modern French dejeune (Lat. *desje- 
junare) ; it thus meant ' breakfast,' but the hour of the meal 
thus termed was gradually shifted in the course of centuries, so 
that now we may have dinner twelve hours after breakfast. When 
picture, which originally meant ' painting,' came to be applied to 
drawings, photographs and other images ; when hard came to 
be used as an epithet not only of nuts and stones, etc., but of words 
and labour ; when fair, besides the old sense of ' beautiful,' 
acquired those of ' blond ' and ' morally just ' ; when meat, from 
meaning all kinds of food (as in sweetmeats, meat and drink), came 
to be restricted practically to one kind of food (butcher's meat) ; 
when the verb grow, which at first was used only of plants, came 
to be used of animals, hairs, nails, feelings, etc., and, instead of 
implying always increase, might even be combined with such a 
predicative as smaller and smaller ; when pretty, from the meaning 
* skilful, ingenious,' came to be a general epithet of approval 
(cf. the modern American, a cunning child= l sweet '), and, besides 
meaning good-looking, became an adverb of degree, as in pretty 
bad : neither these nor countless similar shiftings need be ascribed 
to any influence on the part of the learners of English ; they can 
easily be accounted for as the product of innumerable small 
extensions and restrictions on the part of the users of the language 
after they have once acquired it. 


But along with changes of this sort we have others that have 
come about with a leap, and in which it is impossible to find 
intermediate stages between two seemingly heterogeneous meanings, 
as when bead, from meaning a ' prayer,' comes to mean ' a per- 
forated ball of glass or amber.' In these cases the change is occa- 
sioned by certain connexions, where the whole sense can only be 
taken in one way, but the syntactical construction admits of 
various interpretations, so that an ambiguity at one point gives 
occasion for a new conception of the meaning of the word. The 
phrase to count your beads originally meant ' to count your 
prayers,' but because the prayers were reckoned by little balls, 
the word beads came to be transferred to these objects, and lost 
its original sense. 1 It seems clear that this misapprehension could 
not take place in the brains of those who had already associated 
the word with the original signification, while it was quite natural 
on the part of children who heard and understood the phrase 
as a whole, but unconsciously analyzed it differently from the 
previous generation. 

There is another word which also meant ' prayer ' originally, 
but has lost that meaning, viz. boon ; through such phrases as 
' ask a boon ' and ' grant a boon ' it came to be taken as meaning 
4 a favour ' or ' a good thing received.' 

Orient was frequently used in such connexions as ' orient 
pearl ' and ' orient gem,' and as these were lustrous, orient became 
an adjective meaning ' shining/ without any connexion with the 
geographical orient, as in Shakespeare, Venus 981, "an orient 
drop " (a tear), and Milton, PL i. 546, " Ten thousand banners 
rise into the air, With orient colours waving." 

There are no connecting links between the meanings of ' glad ' 
and ' obliged,' ' forced,' but when fain came to be chiefly used 
in combinations like ' he was fain to leave the country,' it was 
natural for the younger generation to interpret the whole phrase 
as implying necessity instead of gladness. 

We have similar phenomena in certain syntactical changes. 
When me thinks and me likes gave place to I think and / like, the 
chief cause of the change was that the child heard combinations 
like Mother thinks or Father likes, where mother and father can 
be either nominative or accusative-dative, and the construction 
is thus syntactically ambiguous. This leads to a ' shunting ' of 
the meaning as well as of the construction of the verbs, which must 

1 Semantic changes through ambiguous syntactic combinations have 
recently been studied especially by Carl Collin ; see his Semasiologiska studier, 
1906, and Le Dtveloppement de Sens du Suffixe -ATA, Lund, 1918, ch. iii 
and iv. Collin there treata especially of the transition from abstract to 
concrete nouns ; he does not, as I have done above, speak of the r61e of 
the younger generation in such changes. 


have come about in a new brain which was not originally acquainted 
with the old construction. 

As one of the factors bringing about changes in meaning many 
scholars mention forgetfulness ; but it is important to keep in 
view that what happens is not real forgetting, that is, snapping 
of threads of thought that had already existed within the same 
consciousness, but the fact that the new individual never develops 
the threads of thought which in the elder generation bound one 
word to another. Sometimes there is no connexion of ideas in 
the child's brain : a word is viewed quite singly as a whole and 
isolated, till later perhaps it is seen in its etymological relation. 
A little girl of six asked when she was born. " You were born on 
the 2nd of October." "Why, then, I was born on my birthday ! " 
she cried, her eyes beaming with joy at this wonderfully happy 
coincidence. Originally Fare well was only said to some one going 
away. If now the departing guest says Farewell to his friend 
who is staying at home, it can only be because the word Farewell 
has been conceived as a fixed formula, without any consciousness 
of the meaning of its parts. 

Sometimes, on the other hand, new connexions of thought 
arise, as when we associate the word bound with bind in the phrase 
' he is bound for America.' Our ancestors meant ' he is ready to 
go ' (ON. btiinn, ' ready '), not ' he is under an obligation to go.' 
The establishment of new associations of this kind seems naturally 
to take place at the moment when the young mind makes 
acquaintance with the word : the phenomenon is, of course, closely 
related to " popular etymology " (see Ch. VI 6). 

X. 4. Differentiations. 

Linguistic ' splittings ' or differentiations, whereby one word 
becomes two, may also be largely due to the transmission of the 
language to a new generation. The child may hear two pronuncia- 
tions of the same word from different people, and then associate 
these with different ideas. Thus Paul Passy learnt the word 
vneule in the sense of ' grindstone ' from his father, and in the 
sense of ' haycock ' from his mother ; now the former in both 
senses pronounced [moel], and the latter in both [m0'l], and the 
child thus came to distinguish [moel] ' grindstone ' and [m0'l] 
' haycock ' (Ch 23). 

Or the child may have learnt the word at two different periods 
of its life, associated with different spheres. This, I take it, may 
be the reason why some speakers make a distinction between 
two pronunciations of the word medicine, in two and in three 
syllables : they take [medsin], but study [medisin]. 


Finally, the child can itself split words. A friend writes : " I 
remember that when a schoolboy said that it was a good thing that 
the new Headmaster was Dr. Wood, because he would then know 
when boys were ' shamming,' a schoolfellow remarked, ' Wasn't 
it funny ? He did not know the difference between Doctor and 
Docter.' ' In Danish the Japanese are indiscriminately called 
either Japanerne or Japaneserne ; now, I once overheard my boy 
(6.10) lecturing his playfellows : " Japaneserne, that is the soldiers 
of Japan, but Japanerne, that is students and children and such- 
like." It is, of course, possible that he may have heard one 
form originally when shown some pictures of Japanese soldiers, 
and the other on another occasion, and that this may have been 
the reason for his distinction. However this may be, I do not 
doubt that a number of differentiations of words are to be ascribed 
to the transmission of the language to a new generation. Others 
may have arisen in the speech of adults, such as the distinction 
between off and of (at first the stressed and unstressed form of 
the same preposition), or between thorough and through (the former 
is still used as a preposition in Shakespeare : " thorough bush, 
thorough brier "). But complete differentiation is not established 
till some individuals from the very first conceive the forms as 
two independent words. 

X. 5. Summary. 

Instead of saying, as previous writers on these questions have 
done, either that children have no influence or that they have 
the chief influence on the development of language, it will be 
seen that I have divided the question into many, going through 
various fields of linguistic change and asking in each what may 
have been the influence of the child. The result of this investigation 
has been that there are certain fields in which it is both impossible 
and really also irrelevant to separate the share of the child and 
of the adult, because both will be apt to introduce changes of that 
kind ; such are assimilations of neighbouring sounds and droppings 
of consonants in groups. Also, with regard to those very gradual 
shiftings either of sound or of meaning in which it is natural 
to assume many intermediate stages through which the sound or 
signification must have passed before arriving at the final 
result, children and adults must share the responsibility for the 
change. Clippings of words occur in the speech of both classes, 
but as a rule adults will keep the beginning of a word, while very 
small children will perceive or remember only the end of a word 
and use that for the whole. But finally there are some kinds of 
changes which must wholly or chiefly be charged to the account 



of children : such are those leaps in sound or signification in which 
intermediate stages are out of the question, as well as confusions 
of similar words and misdivisious of words, and the most violent 
differentiations of words. 

I wish, however, here to insist on one point which has, I 
think, become more and more clear in the course of our disquisition, 
namely, that we ought not really to put the question like this : 
Are linguistic changes due to children or to grown-up people ? 
The important distinction is not really one of age, which is evidently 
one of degree only, but that between the first learners of the sound 
or word in question and those who use it after having once learnt 
it. In the latter case we have mainly to do with infinitesimal 
glidings, the results of which, when summed up in the course of 
long periods of time, may be very considerable indeed, but in 
which it will always be possible to detect intermediate links 
connecting the extreme points. In contrast to these changes 
occurring after the correct (or original) form has been acquired 
by the individual, we have changes occurring simultaneously with 
the first acquisition of the word or form in question, and thus 
due to the fact of its transmission to a new generation, or, to 
speak more generally, and, indeed, more correctly, to new indi- 
viduals. The exact age of the learner here is of little avail, as will 
be seen if we take some examples of metanalysis. It is highly 
probable that the first users of forms like a pea or a cherry, instead 
of a pease and a cherries, were little children ; but a Chinee and 
a Portuguee are not necessarily, or not pre-eminently, children's 
words : on the other hand, it is to me indubitable that these forms 
do not spring into existence in the mind of someone who has 
previously used the forms Chinese and Portuguese in the singular 
number, but must be due to the fact that the forms the Chinese 
and the Portuguese (used as plurals) have been at once apprehended 
as made up of Chinee, Portuguee + the plural ending -5 by a 
person hearing them for the first time ; similarly in all the other 
cases. We shall see in a later chapter that the adoption (on the 
part of children and adults alike) of sounds and words from a 
foreign tongue presents certain interesting points of resemblance 
with these instances of change : in both cases the innovation 
begins when some individual is first made acquainted with 
linguistic elements that are new to him. 

X. 6. Indirect Influence. 

We have hitherto considered what elements of the language 
may be referred to a child's first acquisition of language. But 
we have not yet done with the part which children play in 


linguistic development. There are two things which must be 
sharply distinguished from the phenomena discussed in the pre- 
ceding chapter the first, that grown-up people in many cases 
catch up the words and forms used by children and thereby give 
them a power of survival which they would not have otherwise ; 
the second, that grown-up people alter their own language so as 
to meet children half-way. 

As for the first point, we have already seen examples in which 
mothers and nurses have found the baby's forms so pretty that 
they have adopted them themselves. Generally these forms are 
confined to the family circle, but they may under favourable circum- 
stances be propagated further. A special case of the highest 
interest has been fully discussed in the section about words of 
the mamma-class. 

As for the second point, grown-up people often adapt their 
speech to the more or less imaginary needs of their children by 
pronouncing words as they do, saying dood and turn for ' good ' and 
' come,' etc. This notion clearly depends on a misunderstanding, 
and can only retard the acquisition of the right pronunciation ; 
the child understands good and come at least as well, if not better, 
and the consequence may be that when he is able himself to pro- 
nounce [g] and [k] he may consider it immaterial, because one 
can just as well say [d] and [t] as [g] and [k], or may be bewil- 
dered as to which words have the one sound and which the other. 
It can only be a benefit to the child if all who come in contact 
with it speak from the first as correctly, elegantly and clearly as 
possible not, of course, in long, stilted sentences and with many 
learned book-words, but naturally and easily. When the child 
makes a mistake, the most effectual way of correcting it is certainly 
the indirect one of seeing that the child, soon after it has made 
the mistake, hears the correct form. If he says ' A waps stinged 
me ' : answer, ' It stung you : did it hurt much when the wasp 
stung you ? ' etc. No special emphasis even is needed ; next 
time he will probably use the correct form. 

But many parents are not so wise ; they will say stinged them- 
selves when once they have heard the child say so. And nurses 
and others have even developed a kind of artificial nursery 
language which they imagine makes matters easier for the little 
ones, but which is in many respects due to erroneous ideas of how 
children ought to talk rather than to real observation of the way 
children do talk. Many forms are handed over traditionally from 
one nurse to another, such as totties, tootems or tootsies for ' feet ' 
(from trotters .?), toothy-peg for ' tooth,' tummy or tumtum for 
' stomach,' tootleums for ' babies,' shooshoo for ' a fly.' I give a 
connected specimen of this nursery language (from Egerton, 


Keynotes, 85) : " Didsum was denn ? Oo did ! Was urns de 
prettiest itta sweetums denn ? Oo was. An* did um put 'em in 
a nasty shawl an' joggle 'em in an ole puff-puff, um did, was a 
shame ! Hitchy cum, hitchy cum, hitchy cum hi, Chinaman no 
likey me." This reminds one of pidgin-English, and in a later 
chapter we shall see that that and similar bastard languages are 
partly due to the same mistaken notion that it is necessary to 
corrupt one's language to be easily understood by children and 
inferior races. 

Very frequently mothers and nurses talk to children in 
diminutives. When many of these have become established in 
ordinary speech, losing their force as diminutives and displacing 
the proper words, this is another result of nursery language. The 
phenomenon is widely seen in Romance languages, where auricula, 
FT. oreille, It. orecchio, displaces auris, and avicellus, Fr. oiseau, 
It. uccello, displaces avis ; we may remember that classical Latin 
had already oculus, for * eye.' * It is the same in Modern Greek. 
An example of the same tendency, though not of the same formal 
means of a diminutive ending, is seen in the English bird (originally 
= ' young bird ') and rabbit (originally = ' young rabbit '), which 
have displaced fowl and coney. 

A very remarkable case of the influence of nursery language 
on normal speech is seen in many countries, viz. in the displacing 
of the old word for ' right ' (as opposed to left). The distinction 
of right and left is not easy for small children : some children in 
the upper classes at school only know which is which by looking 
at some wart, or something of the sort, on one of their hands, and 
have to think every time. Meanwhile mothers and nurses will 
frequently insist on the use of the right (dextera) hand, and when 
they are not understood, will think they make it easier for the 
child by saying ' No, the right hand,' and so it comes about that 
in many languages the word that originally means ' correct ' is 
used with the meaning ' dexter.' So we have in English right, 
in German recht, which displaces zeso, Fr. droit, which displaces 
desire ; in Spanish also la derecha has begun to be used instead 
of la diestra; similarly in Swedish den vackra handen instead 
of hogra, and in Jutlandish dialects den kjon hand instead of 

X. 7. New Languages. 

In a subsequent chapter (XIV 5) we shall consider the theory 
that epochs in which the changes of some language proceed at a 

1 I know perfectly well that in these and in other similar words there 
were reasons for the original word disappearing as unfit (shortness, possibility 
of mistakes through similarity with other words, etc.). What interests 
me here ia the fact that the substitute is a word of the nursery. 


more rapid pace than at others are due to the fact that in times 
of fierce, widely extended wars many men leave home and remain 
abroad, either as settlers or as corpses, while the women left behind 
have to do the field-work, etc., and neglect their homes, the conse- 
quence being that the children are left more to themselves, and 
therefore do not get their mistakes in speech corrected as much 
as usual. 

A somewhat related idea is at the bottom of a theory advanced 
as early as 1886 by the American ethnologist Horatio Hale (see 
"The Origin of Languages," in the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science, XXXV, 1886, and "The Development of 
Language," the Canadian Institute, Toronto, 1888). As these 
papers seem to have been entirely unnoticed by leading philolo- 
gists, I shall give a short abstract of them, leaving out what appears 
to me to be erroneous in the light of recent linguistic thought and 
research, namely, his application of the theory to explain the 
supposed three stages of linguistic development, the monosyllabic, 
the agglutinative and the flexional. 

Hale was struck with the fact that in Oregon, in a region not 
much larger than France, we find at least thirty different families 
of languages living together. It is impossible to believe that 
thirty separate communities of speechless precursors of man should 
have begun to talk independently of one another in thirty distinct 
languages in this district. Hae therefore concludes that the 
origin of linguistic stocks is to be found in the language -making 
instinct of very young children. When two children who are 
just beginning to speak are thrown much together, they sometimes 
invent a complete language, sufficient for all purposes of mutual 
intercourse, and yet totally unintelligible to their parents. In 
an ordinary household, the conditions under which such a language 
would be formed are most likely to occur in the case of twins, 
and Hale now proceeds to mention those instances five in all 
that he has come acros; of languages framed in this manner by 
young children. He concludes : " It becomes evident that, to 
ensure the creation of a speech which shall be a parent of a new 
language stock, all that is needed is that two or more young children 
should be placed by themselves in a condition where they will be 
entirely, or in a large degree, free from the presence and influence 
of their elders. They must, of course, continue in this condition 
long enough to grow up, to form a household, and to have 
descendants to whom they can communicate their new speech." 

These conditions he finds among the hunting tribes of America, 
in which it is common for single families to wander off from the 
main band. '' In modern times, when the whole country is occu- 
pied, their flight would merely carry them into the territory of 



another tribe, among whom, if well received, they would quickly 
be absorbed. But in the primitive period, when a vast uninhabited 
region stretched before them, it would be easy for them to find 
some sheltered nook or fruitful valley. ... If under such circum- 
stances disease or the casualties of a hunter's life should carry 
off the parents, the survival of the children would, it is evident, 
depend mainly upon the nature of the climate and the ease with 
which food could be procured at all seasons of the year. In 
ancient Europe, after the present climatal conditions were estab- 
lished, it is doubtful if a family of children under ten years of 
age could have lived through a single winter. We are not, 
therefore, surprised to find that no more than four or five language 
stocks are represented in Europe. ... Of Northern America, 
east of the Rocky Mountains and north of the tropics, the same 
may be said. . . . But there is one region where Nature seems 
to offer herself as the willing nurse and bountiful stepmother 
of the feeble and unprotected . . . California. Its wonderful 
climate (follows a long description). . . . Need we wonder that, 
in such a mild and fruitful region, a great number of separate 
tribes were found, speaking languages which a careful investigation 
has classed in nineteen distinct linguistic stocks ? " In Oregon, 
and in the interior of Brazil, Hale finds similar climatic conditions 
with the same result, a great number of totally dissimilar lan- 
guages, while in Australia, whose climate is as mild as that of 
any of these regions, we find hundreds, perhaps thousands, of 
petty tribes, as completely isolated as those of South America, 
but all speaking languages of the same stock because " the other 
conditions are such as would make it impossible for an isolated 
group of young children to survive. The whole of Australia 
is subject to severe droughts, and is so scantily provided with 
edible products that the aborigines are often reduced to the 
greatest straits." 

This, then, is Hale's theory. Let us now look a little closer 
into the proofs adduced. They are, as it will be seen, of a twofold 
order. He invokes the language-creating tendencies of young 
children on the one hand, and on the other the geographical 
distribution of linguistic stocks or genera. 

As to the first, it is true that so competent a psychologist as 
Wundt denies the possibility in very strong terms. 1 But facts 
certainly do not justify this foregone conclusion. I must first 
refer the reader to Hale's own report of the five instances known 

1 " Einige namentlich in der altern litteratur vorkommende aneaben 
ttber kinder, die eich zusammen aufwachsend eine eigene Bprache gebildet 
habon sollen, sind wohl oin fur allemal in dae gcbiet der fabel zu verwewen " 
(8 1. 286). 


to him. Unfortunately, the linguistic material collected by him 
is so scanty that we can form only a very imperfect idea of the 
languages which he says children have developed and of the 
relation between them and the language of the parents. But 
otherwise his report is very instructive, and I shall call special 
attention to the fact that in most cases the children seem to have 
been ' spoilt ' by their parents ; this is also the case with regard 
to one of the families, though it does not appear from Bale's own 
extracts from the book in which he found his facts (G. Watson, 
Universe of Language, N.Y., 1878). 

The only word recorded in this case is ni-si-boo-a for ' car- 
riage ' ; how that came into existence, I dare not conjecture ; 
but when it is said that the syllables of it were sometimes so 
repeated that they made a much longer word, this agrees very 
well with what I have myself observed with regard to ordinary 
children's playful word-coinages. In the next case, described by 
E. R. Hun, M.D., of Albany, more words are given. Some of 
these bear a strong resemblance to French, although neither the 
parents nor servants spoke that language ; and Hale thinks that 
some person may have " amused herself, innocently enough, by 
teaching the child a few words of that tongue." This, however, 
does not seem necessary to explain the words recorded. Feu, 
pronounced, we are told, like the French word, signified ' fire, 
light, cigar, sun ' : it may be either E. fire or else an imitation of 
the sound /// without a vowel, or [fa 1 ] used in blowing out a candle 
or a match or in smoking, so as to amuse the child, exactly as 
in the case of one of my little Danish friends,* who used fff as the 
name for ' smoke, steam,' and later for ' funnel, chimney,' and 
finally anything standing upright against the sky, for instance, 
a flagstaff. Petee-petee, the name which the Albany girl gave to 
her brother, and which Dr. Hun derived from F. petit, may be 
just as well from E. pet or petty ; and to explain her word for 
' I,' ma, we need not go to F. moi, as E. me or my may obviously 
be thus distorted by any child Her word for ' not ' is said to 
have been ne-pa-s, though the exact pronunciation is not given. 
This cannot have been taken from the French, at any rate not 
from real French, as ne and pas are here separated, and ne is more 
often than not pronounced without the vowel or omitted altogether ; 
the girl's word, if pronounced something like ['nepa 1 ] may be 
nothing else than an imperfect childish pronunciation of never, 
cf. the negroes' form nebber. Too, ' all, everything,' of course 
resembles FT. tout, but how should anyone have been able to teach 
this girl, who did not speak any intelligible language, a French 
word of this abstract character ? Some of the other words admit 
of a natural explanation from English : go-go, ' delicacy, as sugar, 


candy or dessert,' is probably goody-goody, or a reduplicated form 
of good ; deer, ' money,' may be from dear, ' expensive ' ; odo, 
' to send for, to go out, to take away,' is evidently out, as in ma 
odo, ' I want to go out ' ; gaan, ' God,' must be the English word, 
in spite of the difference in pronunication, for the child would never 
think of inventing this idea on its own accord ; pa-ma, ' to go to 
sleep, pillow, bed,' is from by -bye or an independent word of the 
mamma-class ; mea, ' cat, fur,' of course is imitative of the sound 
of the cat. For the rest of the words I have no conjectures to 
offer. Some of the derived meanings are curious, though perhaps 
not more startling than many found in the speech of ordinary 
children ; papa and mamma separately had their usual signification, 
but papa-mamma meant ' church, prayer-book, cross, priest ' : 
the parents were punctual in church observances ; gar odo, 
' horse out, to send for the horse,' came to mean ' pencil and 
paper,' as the father used, when the carriage was wanted, to write 
an order and send it to the stable. In the remaining three cases 
of ' invented ' languages no specimens are given, except shindikik, 
' cat.' In all cases the children seem to have talked together 
fluently when by themselves in their own gibberish. 

But there exists on record a case better elucidated than Hale's 
five cases, namely that of the Icelandic girl Saeunn. (See Jonasson 
and Eschricht in Dansk Maanedsskrift, Copenhagen, 1858.) She 
was born in the beginning of the last century on a farm in 
Hiinavatns-syssel in the northern part of Iceland, and began early 
to converse with her twin brother in a language that was entirely 
unintelligible to their surroundings. Her parents were disquieted, 
and therefore resolved to send away the brother, who died soon 
afterwards. They now tried to teach the girl Icelandic, but 
soon (too soon, evidently !) came to the conclusion that she could 
not learn it, and then they were foolish enough to learn her 
language, as did also her brothers and sisters and even some of 
their friends. In order that she might be confirmed, her elder 
brother translated the catechism and acted as interpreter between 
the parson and the girl. She is described as intelligent she 
even composed poetry in her own language but shy and dis- 
trustful. Jonasson gives a few specimens of her language, some 
of which Eschricht succeeds in interpreting as based on Icelandic 
words, though strangely disfigured. The language to Jonasson, 
who had heard it, seemed totally dissimilar to Icelandic in sounds 
and construction ; it had no flexions, and lacked pronouns. 
The vocabulary was so limited that she very often had to supple- 
ment a phrase by means of nods or gestures ; and it was difficult 
to carry on a conversation with her in the dark. The ingenuity 
of some of the compounds and metaphors is greatly admired by 


Jonasson, though to the more sober mind of Eschricht they appear 
rather childish or primitive, as when a ' wether ' is called mepok-ill 
from me (imitation of the sound) -f pok, ' a little bag ' (Icel. 
poki) -f ill, * to cut.' The only complete sentence recorded is 
' Dirfa offo nonona uhuh,' which means : ' Sigurdur gets up 
extremely late.' In his analysis of the whole case Eschricht 
succeeds in stripping it of the mystical glamour in which it evidently 
appeared to Jonasson as well as to the girl's relatives ; he is 
undoubtedly right in maintaining that if the parents had persisted 
in only talking Icelandic to her, she would soon have forgotten 
her own language ; he compares her words with some strange 
disfigurements of Danish which he had observed among children 
in his own family and acquaintanceship. 

I read this report a good many years ago, and afterwards I 
tried on two occasions to obtain precise information about similar 
cases I had seen mentioned, one in Halland (Sweden) and the 
other in Finland, but without success. But in 1903, when I was 
lecturing on the language of children in the University of Copen- 
hagen, I had the good fortune to hear of a case not far from 
Copenhagen of two children speaking a language of their own. 
I investigated the case as well as I could, by seeing and hearing 
them several times and thus checking the words and sentences 
which their teacher, who was constantly with them, kindly took 
down in accordance with my directions. I am thus enabled to 
give a fairly full account of their language, though unfortunately 
my investigation was interrupted by a long voyage in 1904. 

The boys were twins, about five and a half years old when I 
saw them, and so alike that even the people who were about them 
every day had difficulty in distinguishing them from each other. 
Their mother (a single woman) neglected them shamefully when 
they were quite small, and they were left very much to shift for 
themselves. For a long time, while their mother was ill in a 
hospital, they lived in an out-of-the-way place with an old woman, 
who is said to have been very deaf, and who at any rate troubled 
herself very little about them. When they were four years old, 
the parish authorities discovered how sadly neglected they were 
and that they spoke quite unintelligibly, and therefore sent them 
to a ' children's home ' in Seeland, where they were properly 
taken care of. At first they were extremely shy and reticent, 
and it was a long time before they felt at home with the other 
children. When I first saw them, they had in so far learnt the 
ordinary language that they were able to understand many every- 
day sentences spoken to them, and could do what they were 
told (e.g. ' Take the footstool and put it in my room near the 
etove '), but they could not speak Danish and said very little 


in the presence of anybody else. When they were by themselves 
they conversed pretty freely and in a completely unintelligible 
gibberish, as I had the opportunity to convince myself when 
standing behind a door one day when they thought they were 
not observed. Afterwards I got to be in a way good friends with 
them they called me py-ma, py being their word for ' smoke, 
smoking, pipe, cigar,' so that I got my name from the chocolate 
cigars which I used to ingratiate myself with them and then I 
got them to repeat words and phrases which their teacher had 
written out for me, and thus was enabled to write down everything 

An analysis of the sounds occurring in their words showed 
me that their vocal organs were perfectly normal. Most of the 
words were evidently Danish words, however much distorted and 
shortened ; a voiceless I, which does not occur in Danish, and 
which I write here Ih, was a very frequent sound. This, combined 
with an inclination to make many words end in -p, was enough 
to disguise words very effectually, as when sort (black) was made 
Ihop. I shall give the children's pronunciations of the names of 
some of their new playfellows, adding in brackets the Danish 
substratum : Ihep (Svend), Ihip (Vilhelm), lip (Elisabeth), lop 
(Charlotte), bap (Mandse) ; similarly the doctor was called dop. 
In many cases there was phonetic assimilation at a distance, as 
when milk (maelk) was called bep, flower (blomst) bop, light (lys) 
Ihylh, sugar (sukker) Iholh, cold (kulde) Ihulh, sometimes also idh, 
bed (seng) scejs, fish (fisk) se-is. 

I subjoin a few complete sentences : nina enaj una enaj hcena 
mad enaj, ' we shall not fetch food for the young rabbits ' : nina 
rabbit (kanin), enaj negation (nej, no), repeated several times in 
each negative sentence, as in Old English and in Bantu languages, 
una young (unge). Bap ep dop, * Mandse has broken the hobby- 
horse,' literally ' Mandse horse piece.' Eos ia bov IhaVt, ' brother's 
trousers are wet, Maria,' literally ' trousers Maria brother water.' 
The words are put together without any flexions, and the word- 
order is totally different from that of Danish. 

Only in one case was I unable to identify words that I under- 
stood either as ' little language ' forms of Danish words or else 
as sound-imitations ; but then it must be remembered that they 
spoke a good deal that neither I nor any of the people about them 
could make anything of. And then, unfortunately, when I began 
to study it, their language was already to a great extent ' human- 
ized ' in comparison to what it was when they first came to the 
children's home. In fact, I noticed a constant progress during 
the short time I observed the boys, and in some of the last 
sentences I have noted I even find the genitive case employed. 


The idiom of these twins cannot, of course, be called an inde- 
pendent, still less a complete or fully developed language; but 
if they were able to produce something so different from the 
language spoken around them at the beginning of the twentieth 
century and in a civilized country, there can to my mind be no 
doubt that Hale is right in his contention that children left to 
themselves even more than these were, in an uninhabited region 
where they were still not liable to die from hunger or cold, would 
be able to develop a language for their mutual understanding 
that might become so different from that of their parents as really 
to constitute a new stock of language. So that we can now pass 
to the other geographical side of what Hale advances in favour 
of his theory. 

So far as I can see, the facts here tally very well with the 
theory. Take, on the one hand, the Eskimo languages, spoken 
with astonishingly little variation from the east coast of Greenland 
to Alaska, an immense stretch of territory in which small children 
if left to themselves would be sure to die very soon indeed. Or 
take the Finnish -Ugrian languages in the other hemisphere, exhibit- 
ing a similar close relationship, though spread over wide areas. 
And then, on the other hand, the American languages already 
adduced by Hale. I do not pretend to any deeper knowledge of 
these languages ; but from the most recent works of very able 
specialists I gather an impression of the utmost variety in 
phonetics, in grammatical structure and in vocabulary; see 
especially Roland B. Dixon and Alfred L. Kroeber, " The Native 
Languages of California," in the American Anthropologist, 1903. 
Even where recent research seems to establish some kind of kinship 
between families hitherto considered as distinguished stocks (as 
in Dixon ; s interesting paper, " Linguistic Relationships within the 
i Shasta -Achomawi Stock," XV Congres des Americanistes. 1906) 
the similarities are still so incomplete, so capricious and generally 
so remote that they seem to support Hale's explanation rather 
than a gradual splitting of the usual kind. 

As for Brazil, I shall quote some interesting remarks from 
C. F. P. v. Martius, Beitrage zur Etknographie u. SpracJienkunde 
Amerika's. 1867, i. p. 46 : "In Brazil we see a scant and unevenly 
distributed native population .uniform in bodily structure, tempera- 
ment, customs and manner of living generally, but presenting a 
really astonishing diversity in language. A language is often 
confined to a few mutually related individuals ; it is in truth a 
family heirloom and isolates its speakers from all other people 
BO as to render any attempt at understanding impossible. On 
the vessel in which we travelled up the rivers in the interior of 
Brazil, we often, among twenty Indian rowers, could count only 


three or four that were at all able to speak together . . . they 
sat there side by side dumb and stupid." 

Hale's theory is worthy, then, of consideration, and now, at 
the close of our voyage round the world of children's language, 
we have gained a post of vantage from which we can overlook 
the whole globe and see that the peculiar word-forms which children 
use in their ' little language ' period can actually throw light 
on the distribution of languages and groups of languages over 
the great continents. Yes, 

Scorn not the little ones ! You oft will find 
They reach the goal, when great ones lag behind. 

500* III 



1. The Substratum Theory. 2. French u and Spanish h. 3. Gothonic 
and Keltic. 4. Etruscan and Indian Consonants. 5. Gothonic 
Sound-shift. 6. Natural and Specific Changes. 7. Power of 
Substratum. 8. Types of Race-mixture. 9. Summary. 10. 
General Theory of Loan-words. 11- Classes of Loan-words. 
12. Influence on Grammar. 13. Translation-loans. 

XI. 1. The Substratum Theory. 

i IT seems evident that if we wish to find out the causes of linguistic 
j change, a fundamental division must be into 

(1) Changes that are due to the transference of the language 
to new individuals, and 

(2) Changes that are independent of such transference. 

It may not be easy in practice to distinguish the two classes, 
as the very essence of the linguistic life of each individual is a 
continual give-and-take between him and those around him ; 
still, the division is in the main clear, and will consequently be 
followed in the present work. 

The first class falls again naturally into two heads, according 
as the new individual does not, or does already, possess a language. 
With the former, i.e. with the native child learning his ' mother- 
tongue,' we have dealt at length in Book II, and we now proceed to 
an examination of the influence exercised on a language through its 
transference to individuals who are already in possession of another 
language let us, for the sake of shortness, call them foreigners. 

While some earlier scholars denied categorically the existence 
of mixed languages, recent investigators have attached a very 
great importance to mixtures of languages, and have studied 
actually occurring mixtures of various degrees and characters 
with the greatest accuracy : I mention here only one name, that 
of Hugo Schuchardt, who combines profundity and width of 
knowledge with a truly philosophical spirit, though the form of 
his numerous scattered writings makes it difficult to gather a just 
idea of his views on many questions. 

Many scholars have recently attached great importance to the 
subtler and more hidden influence exerted by one language on 
mother in those cases in which a population abandons its original 



language and adopts that of another race, generally in consequence 
of military conquest. In these cases the theory is that people 
keep many of their speech-habits, especially with regard to articula- 
tion and accent, even while using the vocabulary, etc., of the new 
language, which thus to a large extent is tinged by the old language. 
There is thus created what is now generally termed a substratum^ 
underlying the new language. As the original substratum modify- 
ing a language which gradually spreads over a large area varies 
according to the character of the tribes subjugated in different 
districts, this would account for many of those splittings-up of 
languages which we witness everywhere. 

Hirt goes so far as to think it possible by the help of exist- 
ing dialect boundaries to determine the extensions of aboriginal 
languages (Idg 19). 

There is certainly something very plausible in this manner of 
viewing linguistic changes, for we all know from practical everyday 
experience that the average foreigner is apt to betray his nation- 
ality as soon as he opens his mouth : the Italian's or the German's 
English is just as different from the 'real thing' as, inversely, the 
Englishman's Italian or German is different from the Italian or 
German of a native : the place of articulation, especially that of 
the tongue-tip consonants, the aspiration or want of aspiration 
of p, t, k, the voicing or non-voicing of b, d, g, the diphthongization 
or monophthongization of long vowels, the syllabification, various 
peculiarities in quantity and in tone-movements all such things 
are apt to colour the whole acoustic impression of a foreigner's 
speech in an acquired language, and it is, of course, a natural 
supposition that the aboriginal inhabitants of Europe and Asia 
were just as liable to transfer their speech habits to new languages 
as their descendants are nowadays. There is thus a priori a strong 
probability that linguistic substrata have exercised some influence 
on the development of conquering languages. But when we 
proceed to apply this natural inference to concrete examples of 
linguistic history, we shall see that the theory does not perhaps 
suffice to explain everything that its advocates would have it 
explain, and that there are certain difficulties which have not 
always been faced or appraised according to their real value. A 
consideration of these concrete examples will naturally lead up to 
a discussion of the general principles involved in the substratum 

XI. 2. French u and Spanish h. 

First I shall mention Ascoli's famous theory that French [y] 
for Latin u, as in dur, etc., is due to Gallic influence, cf. Welsh 
in din from dun, which presupposes a transition from u to [y]. 


Ascoli found a proof in the fact that Dutch also has the pronuncia- 
tion [y], e.g. in duur, on the old Keltic soil of the Belgae, to which 
Schuchardt (SID 126) added his observation of [y] in dialectal 
South German (Breisgau), in a district in -which there had formerly 
been a strong Keltic element. This looks very convincing at 
first blush. On closer inspection, doubts arise on many points. 
The French transition cannot with certainty be dated very early, 
for then c in cure would have been palatalized and changed as 
c before i (Lenz, KZ 39. 46) ; also the treatment of the vowel 
in French words taken over into English, where it is not identified 
with the native [y], but becomes [iu], is best explained on the as- 
sumption that about 1200 A.D. the sound had not advanced farther 
on its march towards the front position than, say, the Swedish 
* mixed-round ' sound in hus. The district in which [y] is found 
for u is not coextensive with the Keltic possessions ; there were 
very few Kelts in what is now Holland, and inversely South German 
[y] for u does not cover the whole Keltic domain ; [y] is found 
outside the French territory proper, namely, in Franco-Proven9al 
(where the substratum was lagurian) and in Pro verbal (where there 
were very few Galli ; cf. Wechssler, L 113). Thus the province 
of [y] is here too small and there too large to make the argument 
conclusive. Even more fatal is the objection that the Gallic 
transition from u to y is very uncertain (Pedersen, GKS 1. 353). 
So much is certain, that the fronting of u was not a common Keltic 
transition, for it is not found in the Gaelic (Goidelic) branch. 1 
On the other hand, the transition from [u] to [y] occurs elsewhere, 
independent of Keltic influence, as in Old Greek (cf . also the Swedish 
sound in hus) : why cannot it, then, be independent in French ? 
Another case adduced by Ascoli is initial h instead of Latin 
/ in the country anciently occupied by the Iberians. Now, Basque 
has no / sound at all in any connexion ; if the same aversion to 
/had been the cause of the Spanish substitution of h for/, we should 
expect the substitution to have been made from the moment when 
Latin was first spoken in Hispania, and we should expect it to be 
found in all positions and connexions. But what do we find 
instead ? First, that Old Spanish had / in many cases where modern 
Spanish has h (i.e. really no sound at all), and this cannot be 

1 Cf. against the assumption of Keltic influence in this instance Meyer- 
Lubke, Die Romaniachen Sprachen, Kultur der Gegentvart, p. 457, and Ett- 
mayer in Streitberg's Gesch. 2. 265. H. Mutschmann, Phonology of the North- 
Eastern Scotch Dialect, 1909, p. 53, thinks that the fronting of u in Scotch 
is similar to that of Latin u on Gallic territory, and like it is ascribable to 
the Keltic inhabitants : he forgets, however, that the corresponding fronting 
is not found in the Keltic spoken in Scotland. Moreover, the complicated 
Scotch phenomena cannot be compared with the French transition, for 
the sound of [u] remains in many cases, and [i] generally corresponds to 
earlier [o], whatever the explanation may be. 



altogether ascribed to ' Latinizing scribes.' On the contrary, the 
transition f>h seems to have taken place many centuries after the 
Roman invasion, since the Spanish -speaking Jews of Salonika, 
who emigrated from Spain about 1500, have to this day preserved 
the / sound among other archaic traits (see F. Hanssen, Span. 
Oramm. 45 ; Wiener, Modern Philology, June 1903, p. 205). And 
secondly, that / has been kept in certain connexions ; thus, before 
[w], as in fui, fuiste, fue, etc., before r and I, as in fruto, flor, etc. 
This certainly is inexplicable if the cause of /> h had been the want 
of power on the part of the aborigines to produce the / sound at 
all, while it is simple enough if we assume a later transition, taking 
place possibly at first between two vowels, with a subsequent 
generalization of the /-less forms. Diez is here, as not infrequently, 
more sensible than some of his successors (see Gramm. d. roman. 
spr., 4th ed., 1. 283 f., 373 f.). 

XI. 3. Gothonic and Keltic. 

Feist (KI 480 ff . : cf. PBB 36. 307 ff., 37. 112ff.) applies the 
substratum theory to the Gothonic (Germanic) languages. The 
Gothons are autochthonous in northern Europe, and very little 
mixed with other races ; they must have immigrated just after 
the close of the glacial period. But the arrival of Aryan (Indo- 
germanic) tribes cannot be placed earlier than about 2000 B.C. ; 
they made the original inhabitants give up their own language. 
The nation that thus Aryanized the Gothons cannot have been 
other than the Kelts ; their supremacy over the Gothons is proved 
by several loan-words for cultural ideas or state offices, such as 
Gothic reiks ' king,' andbahts ' servant.' The Aryan language 
which the Kelts taught the Gothons was subjected in the process 
to considerable changes, the old North Europeans pronouncing 
the new language in accordance with their previous speech habits ; 
instead of taking over the free Aryan accent, they invariably stressed 
the initial syllable, and they made sad havoc of the Aryan flexion. 

The theory does not bear close inspection.' The number of 
Keltic loan-words is not great enough for us to infer such an over- 
powering ascendancy on the part of the Kelts as would force the 
subjected population to make a complete surrender of their own 
tongue. Neither in number nor in intrinsic significance can these 
loans be compared with the French loans in English : and yet 
the Normans did not succeed in substituting their own language 
for English. Besides, if the theory were true, we should not merely 
see a certain number of Keltic loan-words, but the whole speech, 
the complete vocabulary as well as the entire grammar, would be 
Keltic ; yet as a matter of fact there is a wide gulf between Keltic 


and Gothonic, and many details, lexical and grammatical, in the 

latter group resemble other Aryan languages rather than Keltic. 

The stressing of the first syllable is said to be due to the aboriginal 

language. If that were GO, it would mean that this population, 

in adopting the new speech, had at once transferred its own habit 

of stressing the first syllable to all the new words, very much as 

Icelanders are apt to do nowadays. But this is not in accordance 

with well established facts in the Gothonic languages : we know 

that when the consonant shift took place, it found the stress on the 

same syllables as in Sanskrit, and that it was this stress on many 

middle or final syllables that afterwards changed many of the shifted 

consonants from voiceless to voiced (Verner's law). 1 This fact in 

itself suffices to prove that the consonant shift and the stress shift 

cannot have taken place simultaneously, and thus cannot be due 

f to one and the same cause, as supposed by Feist. Nor can the 

i havoc wrought in the old flexions be due to the inability of a new 

i people to grasp the minute nuances and intricate system of another 

, language than its own ; for in that case too we should have some- 

; thing like the formless ' Pidgin English ' from the very beginning, 

; whereas the oldest Gothonic languages still preserve a great 

many old flexions and subtle syntactical rules which have since 

disappeared. As a matter of fact, many of the flexions of primitive 

i Aryan were much better preserved in Gothonic languages than 

in Keltic. 

XL 4. Etruscan and Indian Consonants. 

In another place in the same work (KI 373) Feist speaks of 
the Etruscan language, and says that this had only one kind of 
stop consonants, represented by the letters k (c), t, p, besides the 
aspirated stops Jch, th, ph, which in some instances correspond to 

i Latin and Greek tenues. This, he says, reminds one very strongly 
of the sound system of High German (oberdeutschen) dialects, 
and more particularly of those spoken in the Alps. Feist here 
(and in PBB 36. 340 ff.) maintains that these sounds go back to 
a Pre-Gothonic Alpine population, which he identifies with the 
ancient Rhaetians ; and he sees in this a strong support of a 

, linguistic connexion between the Rhaetians and Etruscans. He 
finds further striking analogies between the Gothonic and the 
Armenian sound systems ; the predilection for voiceless stops 
and aspirated sounds in Etruscan, in the domain of the ancient 
Rhsotians and in Asia Minor is accordingly ascribed to the speech 
habits of one and the same aboriginal race. 

1 Curiously enough, Feist usea this argument himself against Hirt in 
his earlier paper, PBB 37. 121. 

19G THE FOREIGNER [en. xi 

Here, too, there are many points to which I must take exception. 
It is not quite certain that the usual interpretation of Etruscan 
letters is correct ; in fact, much may be said in favour of the 
hypothesis that the letters rendered p, t, k stand really for the 
sounds of 6, d, g, and that those transcribed ph, th, kh (or Greek <f>, 
&, x) represent ordinary p, t, k. . However this may be, Feist 
seems to be speaking here almost in the same breath of the first (or 
common Gothonic) shift and of the second (or specially High Ger- 
man) shift, although they are separated from each other by several 
centuries and neither cover the same geographical ground nor lead 
to the same phonetic result. Neither Armenian nor primitive 
Gothonic can be said to be averse to voiced stops, for in both we 
find voiced b, d, g for the old ' mediae aspiratae.' And in both 
languages the old voiceless stops became at first probably not 
aspirates, but simply voiceless spirants, as in English /ather, thing, 
and Scotch loch. Further, it should be noted that we do not find 
the tendency to unvoice stops and to pronounce affricates either 
in Rhseto-Romanic (Ladin) or in Tuscan Italian ; both languages 
have unaspirated p, t, k and voiced 6, d, g, and the Tuscan 
pronunciation of c between two vowels as [x], thus in la casa 
[la xa'sa], but not in a casa = [akka'sa], could not be termed 
' aspiration ' except by a non-phonetician ; this pronunciation 
can hardly have anything to do with the old Etruscan language. 

According to a theory which is very widely accepted, the 
Dravidian languages exerted a different influence on the Aryan 
languages when the Aryans first set foot on Indian soil, in making 
them adopt the ' cacuminal ' (or ' inverted ') sounds 4, t, n with 
dh and th, which were not found in primitive Aryan. But even 
this theory does not seem to be quite proof against objections. 
It is easy to admit that natives accustomed to one place of articula- 
tion of their d, t, n will unconsciously produce the d, t, n of a new 
language they are learning in the same place ; but then they will 
do it everywhere. Here, however, both Dravidian and Sanskrit 
possess pure dental d, t, n, pronounced with the tip of the tongue 
touching the upper teeth, besides cacuminal d, t, n, in which it 
touches the gum or front part of the hard palate. In Sanskrit 
we find that the cacuminal articulation occurs only under very 
definite conditions, chiefly under the influence of r. Now, a trilled 
tongue-point r in most languages, for purely physiological reasons 
which are easily accounted for, tends to be pronounced further 
back than ordinary dentals ; and it is therefore quite natural 
that it should spontaneously exercise an influence on neighbouring 
dentals by drawing them back to its own point of articulation. 
This may have happened in India quite independently of the occur- 
rence of the same sounds in other vernaculars, just as we find 


the same influence very pronouncedly in Swedish and in East 
Norwegian, where d, t, n, 8 are cacuminal (supradental) in such 
words as bord, kort, barn, forst, etc. According to Grandgent 
(Xeuere Sprachen, 2. 447), d in his own American English 
is pronounced further back than elsewhere before and after r, 
as in dry, hard ; but in none of these cases need we conjure 
up an extinct native population to account for a perfectly 
natural development. 

XI. 5. Gothonic Sound-shift. 

Since the time of Grimm the Gothonic consonant changes 
have harassed the minds of linguists ; they became the sound - 
shift and were considered as something sui generis, something out 
of the common, which required a different explanation from all 
other sound-shifts. Several explanations have been offered, to 
some of which we shall have to revert later ; none, however, has 
been so popular as that which attributes the shift to an ethnic 
substratum. This explanation is accepted by Hirt, Feist, Meillet 
and others, though their agreement ceases when the question is 
asked : What nationality and what language can have been the 
cause of the change ? While some cautiously content themselves 
with saying that there must have been an original population, 
others guess at Kelts, Finns, Rhaetians or Etrurians all fascinating 
names to minds of a speculative turn. 

The latest treatment of the question that I have seen is by 
K. Wessely (in Anthropos, XII-XIII 540 ff., 1917). He assumes 
the following different substrata, beginning with the most recent : 
a Rhseto-Romanic for the Upper-German shift, a Keltic for the 
common High-German shift, and a Finnic for the first Germanic 
shift with the Vernerian law. This certainly has the merit of neatly 
separating sound-shifts that are chronologically apart, except 
with regard to the last-mentioned shift, for here the Finns are 
made responsible for two changes that were probably separated 
by centuries and had really no traits in common. It is curious to 
see the transition from p to / and from t to Ip both important 
elements of the first shift here ascribed to Finnic, for as a matter 
of fact the two sounds/ and Ip are not found in present-day Finnish, 
and were not found in primitive Ugro-Finnic. 1 

1 Feist, on the other hand (PBB 36. 329), makes the Kelts responsible 
for the shift from p to /, because initial p disappears in Keltic : but dis- 
appearance is not the same thing as being changed into a spirant, and there 
is no necessity for assuming that the sound before disappearing had been 
hanged into /. Besides, it is characteristic of the Gothonic shift that it 
affects all stops equally, without regard to the place of articulation, while 
the Keltic change affects only the oue sound p. 


When Wessely thinks that the change discovered by Verner 
is also due to Finnic influence, his reasons are two : an alleged 
parallelism with the Finnic consonant change which he terms 
* Setala's law, ' and then the assumption that such a shift, conditioned 
by the place of the accent, is foreign to the Aryan race (p. 543). 
When, however, we find a closely analogous case only four hundred 
years ago in English, where a number of consonants were voiced 
according to the place of the stress, 1 are we also to say that it is 
foreign to the Anglo-Saxon race and therefore presupposes some 
non-Aryan substratum ? As a matter of fact, the parallelism 
between the English and the old Gothonic shift is much closer 
than that between the latter and the Finnic consonant-gradation : 
in English and in old Gothonic the stress place is decisive, while 
in the Finnic shift it is very doubtful whether stress goes for any- 
thing ; in both English and old Gothonic the same consonants are 
affected (spirants, in English also the combinations [if, ks], but 
otherwise no stops), while in Finnic it is the stops that are primarily 
affected. In old Gothonic, as in English, the change is simply 
voicing, and we have nothing corresponding to the reduction of 
double consonants and of consonant groups in Finnic pappi / papin, 
ottaa I otat, kukka / kukan, parempi / paremman, jalka /jalan, etc. 
On the whole, Wessely's paper shows how much easier it is to 
advance hypotheses than to find truths. 

XI. 6. Natural and Specific Changes. 

Meillet (MSL 19. 164 and 172 ; cf. Bulletin 19. 50 and Germ. 18) 
thinks that we must distinguish between such phonetic changes 
as are natural, i.e. due to universal tendencies, and such as are 
peculiar to certain languages. In the former class he includes 
the opening and the voicing of intervocalic consonants ; there 
is also a natural and universal tendency to shorten long words 
and to slur the pronunciation towards the end of a word. In the 
latter class (changes which are peculiar to and characteristic of 
a particular language) he reckons the consonant shifts in Gothonic 
and Armenian, the weakening of consonants in Greek and in 
Iranian, the tendency to unround back vowels in English and 
Slav. Such changes can only be accounted for on the supposition 
of a change of language : they must be due to people whose own 
language had habits foreign to Aryan. Unfortunately, Meillet 
cannot tell us how to measure the difference between natural and 

1 ME. knowlich*, ttonis [sfcvnee], off, with [wi>] become MnE. knowledge, 
ttonea [stounz], of [or, 0vj, with [wift], etc. ; cf. also possess, discern with fzl. 
txert with [gz], but exercise with [ka]. See my Stvdier over eng. kasua, 1891, 
178 ff., now MEG i. 6. 5 ft'., and (for the phonetic explanation) LPh p. 121. 


peculiar shifts ; he admits that they cannot always be clearly 
separated ; and when he says that there are some extreme cases 
* relativement nets,' such as those named above, I must confess 
that I do not see why the change from the sharp tenuis, as in FT. 
p, t, k, to a slightly aspirated sound, as in English (Bulletin 19. 50), 1 
or the relaxing of the closure which finally led to the sounds of 
[f , )?, x], should be less ' natural ' than a hundred other changes 
and should require the calling in of a deus ex machina in the shape 
of an aboriginal population. The unrounding of E. u in hut, etc., 
to which he alludes, began about 1600 what ethnic substratum 
does that postulate, and is any such required, more than for, say, 
the diphthongizing of long a and o ? 

Meillet (MSL 19. 172) also says that there are certain speech 
sounds which are, as it were, natural and are found in nearly all 
languages, thus p, t, k, n, m, and among the vowels a, , u, while other 
sounds are found only in some languages, such as the two English 
th sounds or, among the vowels, FT. u and Russian y. But when 
he infers that sounds of the former class are stable and remain 
unchanged for many centuries, whereas those of the latter are apt 
to change and disappear, the conclusion is not borne out by actual 
facts. The consonants p, t, k, n, m are said to have remained 
unchanged in many Aryan languages from the oldest times till 
the present day that is, only initially before vowels, which is a 
very important reservation and really amounts to an admission 
that in the vast majority of cases these sounds are just as unstable 
as most other things on this planet, especially if we remember that 
nothing could well be more unstable than k before front vowels, 
as seen in It. [if] and Sp. [)?] in cielo, FT. [s] in del, and [f] in 
chien, Eng. and Swedish [t/] in chin, kind, Norwegian [c] in kind, 
Russian [if] in cetyre ' four ' and [s] in sto ( hundred,' etc. As 
an example of a typically unstable sound Meillet gives bilabial /, 
and it is true that this sound is so rare that it is difficult to find 
it represented in any language ; the reason is simply that the upper 
teeth normally protrude above the lower jaw, and that consequently 
the lower lip articulates easily against the upper teeth, with the 
natural result that where we should theoretically expect the bilabial 
/ the labiodental / takes its place. And s, which is found almost 
universally, and should therefore on Meillet's theory be very stable, 
is often seen to change into h or [x] or to disappear. On the whole, 
then, we sec that it is not the 'naturalness ' or universality of a 

1 Sharp tenues and aspirated tenues may alternate even in the life of 
one individual, as I have observed in the case of my own son, who at the 
age of 1.9 used the sharp French sounds, but five months later substituted 
strongly aspirated p, t, k, with even stronger aspiration than the usual Danish 
sounds, which it took him ten or eleven months to learn with perfect certainty. 


consonant so much as its position in the syllable and word that 
decides the question ' change or no change.' The relation between 
stability and naturalness is seen, perhaps, most clearly in such an 
instance as long [a'] : this sound is so natural that English, from 
the oldest Aryan to present-day speech, has never been without 
it ; yet at no time has it been stable, but as soon as one class of 
words with long [a - ] is changed, a new class steps into its shoes : 
(1) Aryan mater, now mother; (2) lengthening of a short a before 
n : gas, brdhta, now goose, brought ; (3) levelling of ai : stdn, now 
stone ; (4) lengthening of short a : cold, now cold ; (5) later lengthen- 
ing of a in open syllable : name, now [neim]; (6) mod. carve, calm, 
path and others from various sources ; and (7) vulgar speech is now 
developing new le veilings of diphthongs in [m.a-1, pa- (a)] for mile, 

XI. 7. Power of Substratum. 

V. Brondal has made the attempt to infuse new blood into 
the substratum theory through his book, Substrater og Loan 
Romansk og Germansk (Copenhagen, 1917). The effect of a sub- 
stratum, according to him, is the establishment of a ' constant 
idiom/ working " without regard to place and time " (p. 76) and 
changing, for instance, Latin into Old French, Old French into 
Classical French, and Classical French into Modern French. His 
task, then, is to find out certain tendencies operating at these 
various periods ; these are ascribed to the Keltic substratum, 
and Brondal then passes in review a great many languages spoken 
in districts where Kelts are known to have lived in former times, 
in order to find the same tendencies there. If he succeeds in this 
to bis own satisfaction, it is only because the ' tendencies ' estab- 
lished are partly so vague that they will fit into any language, 
partly so ill-defined phonetically that it becomes possible to press 
different, nay, in some cases even directly contrary movements 
into the same class. But considerations of space forbid me to 
enter on a detailed criticism here. I must content myself with 
taking exception to the principle that the effect of the ethnic 
substratum may show itself several generations after the speech 
substitution took place. If Keltic ever had ' a finger in the pie,' 
it must have been immediately on the taking over of the new 
language. An influence exerted in such a time of transition may 
have far-reaching after-effects, like anything else in history, but 
this is not the same thing as asserting that a similar modification 
of the language may take place after the lapse of some centuries 
as an effect of the same cause. * Suppose we have a series of manu- 
scripts, A, B, C, D, etc., of which B is copied from A, C from B, 


<>tc., and that B has an error which is repeated in all the following 
copies ; now, if M suddenly agrees with A (which the copyist has 
never seen), we infer that this reading is independent of A. In the 
same way with a language : each individual learns it from his contem- 
poraries, but has no opportunity of hearing those who have died 
before his own time. It is possible that the transition from a to CB 
in Old English (as in feeder) is due to Keltic influence, but when 
we find, many centuries later, that a is changed into [ae] (the present 
sound) in words which had not CB in OE., e.g. crab, hallow, act, it is 
impossible to ascribe this, as Brondal does, to a ' constant Keltic 
idiom ' working through many generations who had never spoken 
or heard any Keltic. * Atavism/ which skips over one or more 
generations, is unthinkable here, for words and sounds are nothing 
but habits acquired by imitation. 

So far, then, our discussion of the substratum theory has brought 
us no very positive results. One of the reasons why the theories 
put forward of late years havebeen on the whole so unsatisfactory 
is that they deal with speech substitutions that have taken place 
so far back that absolutely nothing, or practically nothing, is known 
of those displaced languages which are supposed to have coloured 
languages now existing. What do we know beyond the mere 
name of Ligurians or Veneti or Iberians ? Of the Pre-Germanic 
and Pre -Keltic peoples we know not even the names. As to the 
old Kelts who play such an eminent rdle in all these speculations, 
we know extremely little about their language at this distant date, 
and it is possible that in some cases, at any rate, the Kelts may have 
been only comparatively small armies conquering this or that 
country for a time, but leaving as few linguistic traces behind 
them as, say, the armies of Napoleon in Russia or the Cimbri and 
Teutoni in Italy. Linguists have turned from the ' glottogonic ' 
speculations of Bopp and his disciples, only to indulge in dia- 
lectogonic speculations of exactly the same visionary type. 

XI. 8. Types of Race-mixture. 

It would be a great mistake to suppose that the conditions, 
and consequently the linguistic results, are always the same, 
whenever two different races meet and assimilate. The chief 
classes of race-mixture have been thus described in a valuable 
paper by George Hempl (Transactions of the American Philological 
Association, XXIX, p. 31 ff., 1898). 

(1) The conquerors are a comparatively small body, who become 
the ruling class, but are not numerous enough to impose their 
language on the country. They are forced to learn the language 
of their subjects, and their grandchildren may come to know that 


language better than they know the language of their ancestors. 
The language of the conquerors dies out, but bequeaths to the native 
language its terms pertaining to government, the army, and those 
other spheres of life that the conquerors had specially under their 
control. Historic examples are the cases of the Goths in Italy 
and Spain, the Franks in Gaul, the Normans in France and the 
Norman-French in England. Of course, the greater the number 
of the conquerors and the longer they had been close neighbours 
of the people they conquered, or maintained the bonds that united 
them to their mother-country, the greater was their influence. 
Thus the influence of the Franks on the language of France was 
greater than that of the Goths on the language of Spain, and the 
influence of the Norman-French in England was greater still. Yet 
in each case the minority ultimately succumbed. 

(2a) The conquest is made by many bodies of invaders, who 
bring with them their whole households and are followed for a long 
period of time by similar hordes of their kinsmen. The conquerors 
constitute the upper and middle classes and a part of the lower 
classes of the new community. The natives recede before the 
conquerors or become their slaves : their speech is regarded as 
servile and is soon laid aside, except for a few terms pertaining 
to the humbler callings, the names of things peculiar to the country 
and place-names. Examples : Angles and Saxons in Britain 
and Europeans in America and Australia, though in the last case 
we can hardly speak of race-mixture between the natives and the 

(26) A more powerful nation conquers the people and annexes 
its territory, which is made a province, to which not only governors 
and soldiers, but also merchants and even colonists are sent. These 
become the upper class and the influential part of the middle class. 
If centuries pass and the province is still subjected to the direct 
influence of the ruling country, it will more and more imitate 
the speech and the habits and customs of that country. Such 
was the history of Italy, Spain and Gaul under the Romans ; 
similar, also, is the story of the Slavs of Eastern Germany and of 
the Dutch in New York State ; such is the process going on to-day 
among the French in Louisiana and among the Germans in their 
original settlements in Pennsylvania. 

(3) Immigrants come in scattered bands and at different 
times ; they become servants or follow other humble callings. 
It is usually not to their advantage to associate with their fellow- 
countrymen, but rather to mingle with the native population. 
The better they learn to speak the native tongue, the faster they 
get on in the world. If their children in their dress or speech 
betray their foreign origin, they are ridiculed as ' Dutch ' or Irish, 


or whatever it may be. They therefore take pains to rid themselves 
of all traces of their alien origin and avoid using the speech of their 
parents. In this way vast numbers of newcomers may be assimi- 
lated year by year till they constitute a large part of the new race, 
while their language makes practically no impression on the lan- 
guage of the country. This is the story of what is going on in all 
parts of the United States to-day. 

It will be seen that in classes 1 and 3 the speech of the natives 
prevails, while in the two classes comprised under 2 it is that of 
the conqueror which eventually triumphs. Further, that, in all 
cases except type 26, that language prevails which is spoken by 
what is at the time the majority. 

Sound substitution is found in class 3 in the case of foreigners 
who come to America after they have learnt to speak, and of the 
children of foreigners who keep up their original language at home. 
If, however, while they are still young, they are chiefly thrown 
with English-speaking people, they usually gain a thorough mastery 
of the English language ; thus most of the children, and practically 
all of the grandchildren, of immigrants, by the time they are grown- 
up, speak English without foreign taint. Their origin has thus 
no permanent influence on their adopted language. The same 
thing is true when a small ruling minority drops its foreign speech 
and learns that of the majority (class 1), and practically also 
(class 2a) when a native minority succumbs to a foreign majority, 
though here the ultimate language may be slightly influenced 
by the native dialect. 

It is different with class 26 : when a whole population comes 
in the course of centuries to surrender its natural speech for that 
of a ruling minority, sound substitution plays an important part, 
and to a great extent determines the character and future of the 
language. Hempl here agrees with Hirt in seeing in this fact 
the explanation of much (N.B. not all !) of the difference between 
the Romanic languages and of the difference between natural 
High German and High German spoken in Low German territory, 
and he is therefore not surprised when he is told by Nissen that 
the dialects of modern Italy correspond geographically pretty 
closely to the non -Latin languages once spoken in the Peninsula. 
But he severely criticizes Hirt for going so far as to explain the 
differentiation of Aryan speech by the theory of sound substitution. 
Hirt assumes conditions like those in class 1, and yet thinks that 
the results would be like those of class 2a " It is essential to Hirt's 
theory that the conquering bodies of Indo-Europeans should be 
small compared with the number of the people they conquered. . . . 
If we wish to prove that the differentiation of Indo-European 
speech waa like the differentiation of Romance speech, we must 


be able to show that the conditions under which the differentiations 
took place were alike or equivalent. But even a cursory examina- 
tion of the manner in which the Romance countries were Romanized 
. . . will make it clear that no parallel could possibly be drawn 
between the conditions under which the Romance languages 
arose and those that we can suppose to have existed while the 
Indo-European languages took shape." Hempl also criticizes the 
way in which the Germanic consonant-shift is supposed by Hirt 
to be due to sound-substitution : when instead of the original 

t th d dh 

Germanic has 

V V t 5, 

these latter sounds, on Hirt's theory, must be either the native 
sounds that the conquered people substituted for the original 
sounds, or else they have developed out of such sounds as the natives 
substituted. If the first be true, we ask ourselves why the con- 
quered people did not use their t for the Indo-European t, instead 
of substituting it for d, and then substituting ]> for the Indo-Euro- 
pean t. If the second supposition be true, the native population 
introduced into the language sounds very similar to the original 
t, th, d, dh, and all the change from that slightly variant form 
to the one that we find in Germanic was of subsequent development 
and must be explained by the usual methods after all. 

I have dwelt so long on Hempl's paper because, in spite of its 
(to my mind) fundamental importance, it has been generally over- 
looked by supporters of the substratum theory. To construct 
a true theory, it will be necessary to examine the largest possible 
number of facts with regard to race-mixture capable of being 
tested by scientific methods. In this connexion the observations 
of Lenz in South America and of Puscariu in Rumania are espe- 
cially valuable. The former found that the Spanish spoken in Chile 
was greatly influenced in its sounds by the speech of the native 
Araucanians (see Zeitschr. f. roman. Philologie, 17. 188 ff., 1893). 
Now, what were the facts in regard to the population speaking 
this language ? The immigrants were chiefly men, who in many 
cases necessarily married native women and left the care of their 
children to a great extent in the hands of Indian servants. As 
the natives were more warlike than in many other parts of 
South America, there was for a very long time a continuous 
influx of Spanish soldiers, many of whom, after a short time, 
settled down peacefully in the country. More Spanish soldiers, 
indeed, arrived in Chile in the course of the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries than in the whole of the rest of 


South America. Accordingly, by the beginning of the eighteenth 
century the Indians had been either driven back or else assimi- 
lated, and at the beginning of the War of Liberation early in 
the nineteenth century Chile was the only State in which there 
was a uniform Spanish-speaking population. In the greater part 
of Chile the population is denser than anywhere else in South 
America, and this population speaks nothing but Spanish, while 
in Peru and Bolivia nearly the whole rural population still speaks 
more or less exclusively Keshua or Aimara, and these languages 
are also used occasionally, or at any rate understood, by the whites. 
Chile is thus the only country in which a real Spanish people's 
dialect could develop. (In Hempl's classification this would be 
a typical case of class 2a.) In the other Spanish- American coun- 
tries the Spanish-speakers are confined to the upper ruling class, 
there being practically no lower class with Spanish as its mother- 
tongue, except in a couple of big cities. Thus we understand that 
the Peruvian who has learnt his Spanish at school has a purer 
Castilian pronunciation than the Chilean ; yet, apart from pro- 
nunciation, the educated Chilean's Spanish is much more correct 
and fluent than that of the other South Americans, whose language 
is stiff and vocabulary scanty, because they have first learnt some 
Indian language in childhood. Lenz's Chileans, who have often 
been invoked by the adherents of the unlimited substratum theory, 
thus really serve to show that sound substitution takes place 
only under certain well-defined conditions. 

Puscariu (in Prinzipienfragen der romanischen Sprachirissen- 
schaft, Beihefte zur Zschr. f. r&m. Phil., 1910) says that in a Saxon 
village which had been almost completely Rumanianized he had 
once talked for hours with a peasant without noticing that he 
was not a native Rumanian : he was, however, a Saxon, who spoke 
Saxon with his wife, but Rumanian with his son, because the 
latter language was easier to him, as he had acquired the Rumanian 
basis of articulation. Here, then, there was no sound substitution, 
and in general we may say that the less related two languages 
are, the fewer will be the traces of the original language left on 
the new language (p. 49). The reason must be that people who 
naturally speak a closely related language are easily understood 
even when their acquired speech has a tinge of dialect : there is thus 
no inducement for them to give up their pronunciation. Puscariu 
also found that it was much more difficult for him to rid himself 
of his dialectal traits in Rumanian than to acquire a correct pro- 
nunciation of German or French. He therefore disbelieves in a 
direct influence exerted by the indigenous languages on the forma- 
tion of the Romanic languages (and thus goes much further than 
Hempl). All these languages, and particularly Rumanian, during 


the first centuries of the Middle Ages underwent radical trans- 
formations not paralleled in the thousand years ensuing. This 
may have been partly due to an influence exerted by ethnic mixture 
on the whole character of the young nations and through that also 
on their language. But other factors have certainly also played 
an important r61e, especially the grouping round new centres 
with other political aims than those of ancient Rome, and conse- 
quent isolation from the rest of the Romanic peoples. Add to this 
the very important emancipation of the ordinary conversational 
language from the yoke of Latin. In the first Christian centuries 
the influence of Latin was so overpowering in official life and in 
the schools that it obstructed a natural development. But soon 
after the third century the educational level rapidly sank, and 
political events broke the power not only of Rome, but also of its 
language. The speech of the masses, which had been held in fetters 
for so long, now asserted itself in full freedom and with elemental 
violence, the result being those far-reaching changes by which 
the Romanic languages are marked off from Latin. Language 
and nation or race must not be confounded : witness Rumania, 
whose language shows very few dialectal variations, though the 
populations of its different provinces are ethnically quite distinct 
(ib. p. 51). 

XL 9. Summary. 

The general impression gathered from the preceding investiga- 
tion must be that it is impossible to ascribe to an ethnic substratum 
all the changes and dialectal differentiations which some linguists 
explain as due to this sole cause. Many other influences must 
have been at work, among which an interruption of intercourse 
created by natural obstacles or social conditions of various kinds 
would be of prime importance. If we take ethnic substrata as 
the main or sole source of dialectal differentiation, it will be hard 
to account for the differences between Icelandic and Norwegian, 
for Iceland was very sparsely inhabited when the ' land-taking ' 
took place, and still harder to account for the very great diver- 
gences that we witness between the dialects spoken in the Faroe 
Islands. A mere turning over the leaves of Bennike and Kris- 
tensen's maps of Danish dialects (or the corresponding maps of 
France) will show the impossibility of explaining the crisscross of 
boundaries of various phonetic phenomena as entirely due to 
ethnical differences in the aborigines. On the other hand, the speech 
of Russian peasants is said to be remarkably free from dialectal 
divergences, in spite of the fact that it has spread in compara- 
tively recent times over districts inhabited by populations with 

9] SUMMARY 207 

languages of totally different types (Finnic, Turkish, Tataric). 1 
thus incline to think that sound substitution cannot have pro- 
duced radical changes, but has only played a minor part in the 
development of languages. There are, perhaps, also interesting 
things to be learnt from conditions in Finland. Here Swedish 
has for many centuries been the language of the ruling minority, 
and it was only in the course of the nineteenth century that Finnish 
attained to the dignity of a literary language. The sound systems 
of Swedish and Finnish are extremely unlike : Finnish lacks many 
of the Swedish sounds, such as 6, d (what is written d is either 
mute or else a kind of weak r), g and /. No word can begin with 
more than one consonant, consequently Swedish strand and skrad- 
dare, ' tailor,' are represented in the form of the loan-words ranta 
and radtdli. Now, in spite of the fact that most Swedish-speaking 
people have probably spoken Finnish as children and have had 
Finnish servants and playfellows to teach them the language, 
none of these peculiarities have influenced their Swedish : what 
makes them recognizable as hailing from Finland (' finska 
brytningen ') is not simplification of consonant groups or substitu- 
tion of p for 6, etc., but such small things as the omission of the 
' compound tone,' the tendency to lengthen the second consonant 
in groups like ns, and European (' back ') u instead of the Swedish 
mixed vowel. 

But if sound substitution as a result of race-mixture and of 
conquest cannot have played any very considerable part in the 
differentiation of languages as wholes, there is another domain 
in which sound substitution is very important, that is, in the shape 
which loan-words take in the languages into which they are intro- 
duced. However good the pronunciation of the first introducer 
of a word may have been, it is clear that when a word is extensively 
used by people with no intimate and first-hand knowledge of the 
language from which it was taken, most of them will tend to pro- 
nounce it with the only sounds with which they are familiar, those 
of their own language. Thus we see that the English and Rus- 
sians, who have no [y] in their own speech, substitute for it the 
combination [ju, iu] in recent loans from French Scandinavians 
have no voiced [z] and [5] and therefore, in such loans from French 
or English as kusine, budget, jockey, etc., substitute the voiceless 
[s] and [fj], or [sj]. The English will make a diphthong of the 
final vowels of such words as bouquet, beau [bu'kei, bou], and will 
slur the r of such French words as boulevard, etc. The same trans- 
ference of speech habits from one's native language also affecta 
such important things as quantity, stress and tone : the English 
have no final short stressed vowels, such as are found in bouquet, 
beau ; hence their tendency to lengthen as well as diphthongize 


these sounds, while the French will stress the final syllable of 
recent loans, such as jury, reporter. These phenomena are so uni- 
versal and so well known that they need no further illustration. 
The more familiar such loan-words are, the more unnatural 
it would be to pronounce them with foreign sounds or according 
to foreign rules of quantity and stress ; for this means in each 
case a shunting of the whole speech-apparatus on to a different 
track for one or two words and then shifting back to the original 
' basis of articulation ' an effort that many speakers are quite 
incapable of and one that in any case interferes with the natural 
and easy flow of speech. 

XI. 10. General Theory of Loan-words. 

In the last paragraphs we have already broached a very im- 
portant subject, that of loan-words. 1 No language is entirely 
free from borrowed words, because no nation has ever been com- 
pletely isolated. Contact with other nations inevitably leads to 
borrowings, though their number may vary very considerably. 
Here we meet with a fundamental principle, first formulated by 
E. Windisch (in his paper " Zur Theorie der Mischsprachen und 
Lehnworter," Verh. d. sdchsischen Gesellsch. d. Wissensch., XLIX, 
1897, p. 107 ff.) : " It is not the foreign language a nation learns 
that turns into a mixed language, but its own native language 
becomes mixed under the influence of a foreign language." When 
we try to learn and talk a foreign tongue we do not introduce into 
it words taken from our own language ; our endeavour will always 
be to speak the other language as purely as possible, and generally 
we are painfully conscious of every native word that we intrude 
into phrases framed in the other tongue. But what we thus avoid 
in speaking a foreign language we very often do in our own. 
Frederick the Great prided himself on his good French, and in his 
French writings we do not find a single German word, but whenever 
he wrote German his sentences were full of French words and 
phrases. This being the general practice, we now understand 
why so few Keltic words were taken over into French and 
English. There was nothing to induce the ruling classes to learn 

1 I use the terms loan-words and borrowed words because they are con- 
venient and firmly established, not because they are exact. There are two 
essential respects in which linguistic borrowing differs from the borrowing 
of, say, a knife or money : the lender does not deprive himself of the use 
of the word any more than if it had not been borrowed by the other party, and 
the borrower is under no obligation to return the word at any future time. 
Linguistic ' borrowing ' is really nothing but imitation, and the only way 
in which it differs from a child's imitation of its parents' speech is that here 
something is imitated which forms a part of a speech that is not imitated 
as a whole. 


the language of the inferior natives : it could never be fashionable 
for them to show an acquaintance with a despised tongue by using 
now and then a Keltic word. On the other hand, the Kelt would 
have to learn the language of his masters, and learn it well ; and 
he would even among his comrades like to show off his knowledge 
by interlarding his speech with words and turns from the language 
of his betters. Loan-words always show a superiority of the nation 
from whose language they are borrowed, though this superiority 
may be of many different kinds. 

In the first place, it need not be extensive : indeed, in some 
of the most typical cases it is of a very partial character and 
touches only on one very special point. I refer to those instances 
in which a district or a people is in possession of some special 
thing or product wanted by some other nation and not produced 
in that country. Here quite naturally the name used by the natives 
is taken over along with the thing. Obvious examples are the 
names of various drinks : wine is a loan from Latin, tea from Chinese, 
coffee from Arabic, chocolate from Mexican, and punch from Hin- 
dustani. A certain type of carriage was introduced about 1500 
from Hungary and is known in most European languages by its 
Magyar name : E. coach, G. kutsche, etc. Moccasin is from 
Algonquin, bamboo from Malay, tulip and turban (ultimately the 
same word) from Persian. A slightly different case is when some 
previously unknown plant or animal is made known through some 
foreign nation, as when we have taken the name of jasmine from 
Persian, chimpanzee from some African, and tapir from some 
Brazilian language. It is characteristic of all words of this kind 
that only a few of them are taken from each foreign language, 
and that they have nearly all of them gone the round of all 
civilized languages, so that they are now known practically all 
over the world. 

Other loan-words form larger groups and bear witness to the 
cultural superiority of some nation in some one specified sphere 
of activity or branch of knowledge : such are the Arabic words 
relating to mathematics and astronomy (algebra, zero, cipher, 
azimuth, zenith, in related fields tariff, alkali, alcohol), the Italian 
words relating to music (piano, allegro, andante, *olo, soprano, 
etc.) and commerce (bank, bankrupt, balance, traffic, ducat, florin) 
one need not accumulate examples, as everybody interested in 
the subject of this book will be able to supply a great many from 
his own reading. The most comprehensive groups of this kind 
are those French, Latin and Greek words that have flooded the 
whole world of Western civilization from the Middle Ages and 
the Renaissance and have given a family-character to all those 
parts of the vocabularies of otherwise different languages which 



are concerned with the highest intellectual and technical activities. 
See the detailed discussion of these strata of loan-words in English 
in GS ch. v and vi. 

When one nation has imbibed for centuries the cultural influ- 
ence of another, its language may have become so infiltrated with 
words from the other language that these are found in most sen- 
tences, at any rate in nearly every sentence dealing with things 
above the simplest material necessities. The best-known examples 
are English since the influx of French and classical words, and 
Turkish with its wholesale importations from Arabic. Another 
example is Basque, in which nearly all expressions for religious 
and spiritual ideas are Romanic. Basque is naturally very poor 
in words for general ideas ; it has names for special kinds of trees, 
but * tree ' is arbolia, from Spanish drbol, ' animal ' is animale, 
' colour ' colore, ' plant ' planta or landare, ' flower ' lore or lili, 
' thing ' gauza, ' time ' dembora. Thus also many of its names 
for utensils and garments, weights and measures, arms, etc., are 
borrowed ; ' king ' is errege, ' law ' lege, lage, ' master ' maisu, 
etc. (See Zs. f. roman. Phil., 17. 140 ff.) 

In a great many cases linguistic borrowing must be considered 
a necessity, but this is not always so. When a nation has once 
got into the habit of borrowing words, people will very often use 
foreign words where it would have been perfectly possible to ex- 
press their ideas by means of native speech-material, the reason 
for going out of one's own language being in some cases the desire to 
be thought fashionable or refined through interlarding one's speech 
with foreign words, in others simply laziness, as is very often the 
case when people are rendering thoughts they have heard or read 
in a foreign tongue. Translators are responsible for the great 
majority of these intrusive words, which might have been avoided 
by a resort to native composition or derivation, or very often by 
turning the sentence a little differently from the foreign text. 
The most thoroughgoing speech mixtures are due much less to 
real race-mixture than to continued cultural contact, especially 
of a literary character, as is seen very clearly in English, where 
the Romanic element is only to a very small extent referable to 
the Norman conquerors, and far more to the peaceful relations 
of the following centuries. That Greek and Latin words have 
come in through the medium of literature hardly needs saying. 
Many of these words are superfluous : " The native words cold, 
cool, chilly, icy, frosty, might have seen<jd sufficient for all pur- 
poses, without any necessity for importing frigid, gelid and algid, 
which, as a matter of fact, are found neither in Shakespeare nor 
in the Authorized Version of the Bible nor in the poetical works 
of Milton, Pope, Cowper and Shelley " (GS 136). But on the 


other hand it cannot be denied that the imported words have in 
many instances enriched the language through enabling its users 
to obtain greater variety and to find expressions for many subtle 
shades of thought. The question of the value of loan-words can- 
not be dismissed offhand, as the ' purists ' in many countries are 
inclined to imagine, with the dictum that foreign words should be 
shunned like the plague, but requires for its solution a careful 
consideration of the merits and demerits of each separate foreign 
term viewed in connexion with the native resources for expressing 
that particular idea. 

XI. 11. Classes o! Loan-words. 

It is quite natural that there should be a much greater inclina- 
tion everywhere to borrow ' full ' words (substantives, adjectives, 
notional verbs) than ' empty ' words (pronouns, prepositions, 
conjunctions, auxiliary verbs), to which class most of the ' gram- 
matical ' words belong But there is no hard-and-fast limit between 
the two classes. It is rare for a language to take such words as 
numerals from another language ; yet examples are found here 
and there thus, in connexion with special games, etc. Until 
comparatively recently, dicers and backgammon -players counted 
in England by means of the French words ace, deuce, tray, cater, 
cinque, size, and with the English game of lawn tennis the English 
way of counting (fifteen love, etc.) has been lately adopted in 
Russia and to some extent also in Denmark. In some parts of 
England Welsh numerals were until comparatively recent times 
used in the counting of sheep. Cattle-drivers in Jutland used to 
count from 20 to 90 in Low German learnt in Hamburg and Holstein, 
where they sold their cattle. In this case the clumsiness and want 
of perspicuity of the Danish expressions (halvtredsindstyve for Low 
German fofdix, etc.) may have been one of the reasons for preferring 
the German words ; in the same way the clumsiness of the Eskimo 
way of counting (" third toe on the second foot of the fourth man," 
etc.) has favoured the introduction into Greenlandic of the Danish 
words for 100 and 1,000 : with an Eskimo ending, untritigdlit and 
tu-sintigdlit. Most Japanese numerals are Chinese. And of course 
million and milliard are used in most civilized countries. 

Prepositions, too, are rarely borrowed by one language from 
another. Yet the Latin (Ital.) per is used in English, German 
and Danish, and the French a in the two latter languages, and both 
are extending their domain beyond the commercial language in 
which they were first used. The Greek kata, at first also commercial, 
has in Spanish found admission into the ordinary language and 
has become the pronoun coda ' each.' 


Personal and demonstrative pronouns, articles and the like are 
scarcely ever taken over from one language to another. They are 
so definitely woven into the innermost texture of a language that 
no one would think of giving them up, however much he might 
like to adorn his speech with words from a foreign source. If, 
therefore, in one instance we find a case of a language borrowing 
words of this kind, we are justified in thinking that exceptional 
causes must have been at work, and such really proves to be the 
case in English, which has adopted the Scandinavian forms they, 
them, their. It is usual to speak of English as being a mixture of 
native Old English (' Anglo-Saxon ') and French, but as a matter 
of fact the French influence, powerful as it is in the vocabulary 
and patent as it is to the eyes of everybody, is superficial in com- 
parison with the influence exercised in a much subtler way by the 
Scandinavian settlers in the North of England. The French 
influence is different in extent, but not in kind, from the French 
influence on German or the old Gothonic influence on Finnic ; 
it is perhaps best compared with the German influence on Danish 
in the Middle Ages. But the Scandinavian influence on English 
is of a different kind. The number of Danish and Norwegian 
settlers in England must have been very large, as is shown by 
the number of Scandinavian place-names ; yet that does not 
account for everything. A most important factor was the great 
similarity of the two languages, in spite of numerous points of 
difference. Accordingly, when their fighting was over, the invaders 
and the original population would to some extent be able to make 
themselves understood by one another, like people talking two 
dialects of the same language, or like students from Copenhagen 
and from Lund nowadays. Many of the most common words 
were absolutely identical, and others differed only slightly. Hence 
it comes that in the Middle English texts we find a great many 
double forms of the same word, one English and the other Scandi- 
navian, used side by side, some of these doublets even surviving 
till the present day, though now differentiated in sense (e.g. whole, 
hale \ no, nay ; from, fro ; skirt, skirt), while in other cases one 
only of the two forms, either the native or the Scandinavian, has 
survived ; thus the Scandinavian sister and egg have ousted the 
English sweostor and ey. We find, therefore, a great many words 
adopted of a kind not usually borrowed ; thus, everyday verbs and 
adjectives like take, call, hit, die, ill, ugly, wrong, and among sub- 
stantives such non-technical ones as fellow, sky, skin, wing, etc. 
(For details see my GS ch. iv.) All this indicates an intimate fusion 
of the two races and of the two languages, such as is not provided 
for in any of the classes described by Hempl (above, 8). In 
most speech-mixtures the various elements remain distinct and can 


be separated, just as after shuffling a pack of cards you can pick 
out the hearts, spades, etc. ; but in the case of English and Scandi- 
navian we have a subtler and more intimate fusion, very much 
as when you put a lump of sugar into a cup of tea and a few minutes 
afterwards are quite unable to say which is tea and which is sugar. 

XL 12. Influence on Grammar. 

The question has often been raised whether speech-mixture 
affects the grammar of a language which has borrowed largely 
from some other language. The older view is expressed pointedly 
by Whitney (L 199) : " Such a thing as a language with a mixed 
grammatical apparatus has never come under the cognizance of 
linguistic students : it would be to them a monstrosity ; it seems 
an impossibility." This is an exaggeration, and cannot be justified, 
for the simple reason that the vocabulary of a language and its 
' grammatical apparatus ' cannot be nicely separated in the way 
presupposed : indeed, much of the borrowed material mentioned 
in our last paragraphs does belong to the grammatical apparatus. 
But there is, of course, some truth in Whitney's dictum. When 
a word is borrowed it is not as a rule taken over with all the elaborate 
flexion which may belong to it in its original home ; as a rule, 
one form only is adopted, it may be the nominative or some other 
case of a noun, the infinitive or the present or the naked stem of 
a verb. This form is then either used unchanged or with the end- 
ings of the adopting language, generally those of the most ' regular ' 
declension or conjugation. It is an exceptional case when more 
than one flexional form is taken over, and this case does not occur 
in really popular loans. In learned usage we find in older Danish 
such case-flexion as gen. Christi, dat. Christo, by the side of nom. 
Christus, also, e.g., theatro, and still sometimes in German we 
have the same usage : e.g. mit den pronominibus. In a somewhat 
greater number of instances the plural form is adopted as well as 
the singular form, as in English fungi, formula, phenomena, sera- 
phim, etc., but the natural tendency is always towards using the 
native endings, funguses, formulas, etc., and this has prevailed in 
all popular wdrds, e.g. ideas, circuses, museums. As the formation 
of cases, tenses, etc., in different languages is often very irregular, 
and the distinctive marks are often so intimately connected with 
the kernel of the word and so unsubstantial as not to be easily 
distinguished, it is quite natural that no one should think of 
borrowing such endings, etc., and applying them to native words. 
Schuchardt once thought that the English genitive ending 8 had 
been adopted into Indo-Portuguese (in the East Indies), where gober- 
nadora casa stands for ' governor's house,' but he now explains the 


form more correctly as originating in the possessive pronoun su : 
gobernador su cam (dem g. sein haus, Sitzungsber. der preuss. 
Akademie, 1917, 524). 

It was at one time commonly held that the English plural 
ending , which in Old English was restricted in its application, 
owes its extension to the influence of French. This theory, I believe, 
was finally disposed of by the six decisive arguments I brought 
forward against it in 1891 (reprinted in ChE 39). But after what 
has been said above on the Scandinavian influence, I incline to think 
that E. Classen is right in thinking that the Danes count for some- 
thing in bringing about the final victory of -s over its competitor 
-n, for the Danes had no plural in -n, and -s reminded them of 
their own -r (Mod. Language Rev. 14. 94 ; cf. also -5 in the third 
person of verbs, Scand. -r). Apart from this particular point, 
it is quite natural that the Scandinavians should have exercised 
a general levelling influence on the English language, as many 
niceties of grammar would easily be sacrificed where mutual in- 
telligibility was so largely brought about by the common vocabu- 
lary. Accordingly, we find that in the regions in which the Danish 
settlements were thickest the wearing away of grammatical forms 
was a couple of centuries in advance of the same process in the 
southern parts of the country. 

Derivative endings certainly belong to the * grammatical 
apparatus ' of a language ; yet many such endings have been 
taken over into another language as parts of borrowed words 
and have then been freely combined with native speech-material. 
The phenomenon is extremely frequent in English, where we have, 
for instance, the Romanic endings -ess (shepherdess, seeress), -ment 
(endearment, bewilderment), -age (mileage, cleavage, shortage), -ance 
(hindrance, forbearance) and many more. In Danish and German 
the number of similar instances is much more restricted, yet we 
have, for instance, recent words in -isme, -ismus and -ianer ; cf. 
also older words like bageri, bdckerei, etc. It is the same with pre- 
fixes : English has formed many words with de-, co-, inter-, pre- t 
anti- and other classical prefixes : de-anglicize, co-godfather, inter- 
marriage, at pre-war prices, anti-slavery, etc. (quotations in my 
GS 124 ; cf . MEG ii. 14. 66). Ex- has established itself in many 
languages; ex-king, ex-roi, ex-konge, ex-konig, etc. In Danish 
the prefix 6e-, borrowed from German, is used very extensively 
with native words : bebrejde, bebo, bebygge, and this is not the only 
German prefix that is productive in the Scandinavian languages. 

With regard to syntax, very little can be said except in a 
general way : languages certainly do influence each other syn- 
tactically, and those who know a foreign language only imper- 
fectly are apt to transfer to it methods of construction from their 


own tongue. Many instances of this have been collected by 
Schuchardt, SID. But it is doubtful whether these syntactical 
influences have the same permanent effects on any language as those 
exerted on one's own language by the habit of translating foreign 
works into it : in this purely literary way a great many idioms 
and turns of phrases have been introduced into English, German 
and the Scandinavian languages from French and Latin, and into 
Danish and Swedish from German. The accusative and infinitive 
construction, which had only a very restricted use in Old English, 
has very considerably extended its domain through Latin influence, 
and the so-called ' absolute construction ' (in my own grammatical 
terminology called * nexus subjunct ') seems to be entirely due to 
imitation of Latin syntax. In the Balkan tongues there are some 
interesting instances of syntactical agreement between various 
languages, which must be due to oral influence through the neces- 
sity imposed on border peoples of passing continually from one 
language to another : the infinitive has disappeared from Greek, 
Rumanian and Albanian, and the definite article is placed after 
the substantive in Rumanian, Albanian and Bulgarian. 

XI. 13. Translation-loans. 

Besides direct borrowings we have also indirect borrowings or 
* translation loan-words,' words modelled more or less closely on 
foreign ones, though consisting of native speech-material. I take 
some examples from the very full and able paper " Notes sur les 
Caiques Linguistiques " contributed by Kr. Sandfeld to the Fest- 
schrift Vilh. Thomsen, 1912 : cedificatio : G. erbauung, Dan. 
opbyggelse ; (Equilibrium : G. gleichgewicht, Dan. ligevaegt ; bene- 
ficium : G. wohltat, Dan. velgerning ; canscientia : Goth. mtywissi, 
G. gewissen, Dan. samvittighed, Swed. samvete, Russ. soznanie ; 
omnipotens : E. almighty, G. allmachtig, Dan. almaegtig ; arriere- 
pensee : hintergedanke, bagtanke ; bien-etre : wohlsein, velvasre ; 
exposition : austellung, udstilling ; etc. Sandfeld gives many 
more examples, and as he has in most instances been able to give 
also corresponding words from various Slavonic languages as well 
as from Magyar, Finnic, etc., he rightly concludes that his collec- 
tions serve to throw light on that community in thought and ex- 
pression which Bally has well termed " la mentalite europeenne." 
(But it will be seen that English differs from most European lan- 
guages in having a much greater propensity to swallowing foreign 
words raw, as it were, than to translating them.) 


1. Beach-la-Mar. 2. Grammar. 3. Sounds. 4. Pidgin. 5. Grammar, 
etc. 6. General Theory. 7. Mauritius Creole. 8. Chinook Jar- 
gon. 9. Chinook continued. 10. Makeshift Languages. 11. 
Romanic Languages. 

Xn. 1. Beach-la-Mar. 

As a first typical example of a whole class of languages now 
found in many parts of the world where people of European 
civilization have come into contact with men of other races, we 
may take the so-called Beach-la-mar (or Beche-le-mar, or Beche 
de mer English) ; x it is also sometimes called Sandal wood 
English. It is spoken and understood all over the Western 
Pacific, its spread being largely due to the fact that the practice 
of ' blackbirding ' often brought together on the same plantation 
many natives from different islands with mutually incompre- 
hensible languages, whose only means of communication was 
the broken English they had picked up from the whites. And 
now the natives learn this language from each other, while 
in many places the few Europeans have to learn it from the 
islanders. " Thus the native use of Pidgin -English lays down 
the rules by which the Europeans let themselves be guided when 
learning it. Even Englishmen do not find it quite easy at the 
beginning to understand Pidgin-English, and have to learn it 
before they are able to speak it properly " (Landtman). 

1 The etymology of this name is rather curious : Portuguese bicho de mar, 
from bicho ' worm,' the name of the sea slug or trepang, which is eaten as a 
luxury by the Chinese, was in French modified into beche de mer, 'sea- 
spade ' ; this by a second popular etymology was made into English 
beach-la-mar as if a compound of beach. 

My sources are H. Schuchardt, KS v. (Wiener Academic, 1883) ; id. in 
ESt xiii. 158 ff., 1889; W. Churchill, Beach-la-Mar, the Jargon or Trade 
Speech of the Western Pacific (Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1911); 
Jack London, The Cruise of the Snark (Mills & Boon, London, 1911 ?), 
G. Landtman in Neuphilologische Mittleilungen (Helsingfors, 1918, p. 62 ff. 
Landtman calls it " the Pidgin -English of British New Guinea," where he 
learnt it, though it really differs from Pidgin-English proper ; see below) ; 
" The Jargon English of Torres Straits " in Reports of the Cambridge 
Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits, vol. iii. p. 25 1 ft., Cambridge, 


1] BEACH-LA-MAR 217 

I shall now try to give some idea of the structure of this 

The vocabulary is nearly all English. Even most of the 
words which ultimately go back to other languages have been 
admitted only because the English with whom the islanders were 
thrown into contact had previously adopted them into their own 
speech, so that the islanders were justified in believing that they 
were really English. This is true of the Spanish or Portuguese 
savvy, ' to know,' and pickaninny, ' child ' or ' little one ' (a 
favourite in many languages on account of its symbolic sound; 
see Ch. XX 8), as well as the Amerindian tomahawk, which in the 
whole of Australia is the usual word for a small axe. And if we 
find in Beach-la-mar the two Maori words tapu or taboo and 
kai, or more often kaikai, ' to eat ' or ' food,' they have probably 
got into the language through English we know that both are 
very extensively used in Australia, while the former is known all 
over the civilized world. Likkilik or liklik, ' small, almost/ is said 
to be from a Polynesian word liki, but may be really a perversion 
of Engl. little. Landtman gives a few words from unknown 
languages used by the Kiwais, though not derived from their 
own language. The rest of the words found in my sources are 
English, though not always pure English, in so far as their 
signification is often curiously distorted. 

Nusipepa means ' a letter, any written or printed document,' 
mary is the general term for 'woman ' (cf. above, p. 118), pisupo 
(peasoup) for all foreign foods which are preserved in tins ; 
squareface, the sailor's name for a square gin-bottle, is extended 
to all forms of glassware, no matter what the shape. One of 
the earliest seafarers is said to have left a bull and a cow on one 
of the islands and to have mentioned these two words together ; 
the natives took them as one word, and now bullamacow or pulu- 
rnakau means ' cattle, beef, also tinned beef ' ; pulomokau is 
now given as a native word in a dictionary of the Fijian 
language. 1 Bulopenn, which means ' ornament,' is said to be 
nothing but the English blue paint. All this shows the purely 
accidental character of many of the linguistic acquisitions of 
the Polynesians. 

As the vocabulary is extremely limited, composite expres- 
sions are sometimes resorted to in order to express ideas for 
which we have simple words, and not unfrequently the devices 
used appear to us very clumsy or even comical. A piano is 
called ' big fellow bokus (box) you fight him he cry,' and a 

1 Similarly the missionary G. Brown thought that tobi was a native 
word of the Duke of York Islands for ' wash,' till one day he accidentally 
discovered that it was their pronunciation of English soap. 


concertina ' little fellow bokus you shove him he cry, you pull 
him he cry.' Woman he got faminil ('family') inside means 
'she is with child.' Inside is also used extensively about mental 
states : jump inside ' be startled,' inside tell himself ' to con- 
sider,' inside bad ' grieved or sorry,' feel inside ' to know,' feel 
another kind inside ' to change one's mind.' My throat he fast 
' I was dumb.' He took daylight a long time ' lay awake.' Bring 
fellow belong make open bottle ' bring me a corkscrew.' Water 
belong stink 'perfumery.' The idea of being bald is thus ex- 
pressed : grass belong head belong him all he die finish, or with 
another variant, coconut belong him grass no stop, for coconut is 
taken from English slang in the sense ' head ' (Schuchardt has 
the sentence : You no savvy that fellow white man coconut belong 
him no grass ?), For ' feather ' the combination grass belong 
pigeon is used, pigeon being a general term for any bird. 

A man who wanted to borrow a saw, the word for which he 
had forgotten, said : ' You give me brother belong tomahawk, 
he come he go.' A servant who had been to Queensland, where 
he saw a train, on his return called it ' steamer he walk about 
along bush.' Natives who watched Landtman when he en- 
closed letters in envelopes named the latter ' house belong letter.' 
Many of these expressions are thus picturesque descriptions made 
on the spur of the moment if the proper word is not known. 

. Grammar. 

These phrases have already illustrated some points of the 
very simple grammar of this lingo. Words have only one form, 
and what is in our language expressed by flexional forms is 
either left unexpressed or else indicated by auxiliary words. 
The plural of nouns is like the singular (though the form men 
is found in my texts alongside of man) ; when necessary, the 
plural is indicated by means of a prefixed all : all he talk ' they 
say ' (also him fellow all ' they ') ; all man ' everybody ' ; a more 
indefinite plural is plenty man or full up man. For ' we ' is 
said me two fella or me three fellow, as the case may be ; me two 
fellow Lagia means ' I and Lagia.' If there are more, me 
altogether man or me plenty man may be said, though we is also 
in use. Fellow (fella) is a much-vexed word ; it is required, or 
at any rate often used, after most pronouns, thus, that fellow hat, 
this fellow knife, me fellow, you fellow, him fellow (not he fellow) ; 
it is foun very often after an adjective and seems to be required 
to prop up the adjective before the substantive : big fellow 
name, big fellow tobacco, another fellow man. In other cases no 
fellow is used, and it seems difficult to give definite rules ; after 

2] GRAMMAR 219 

a numeral it is frequent : two fellow men (man ?), three fellow 
bottle. There is a curious employment in ten fellow ten one 
fellow, which means 101. It is used adverbially in that man he 
cry big fellow ' he cries loudly.' 

The genitive is expressed by means of belong (or belong-a, 
long, along), which also serves for other prepositional relations. 
Examples : tail belong him, pappa belong me, wife belong you, 
belly belong me walk about too much (I was seasick), me sawee talk 
along white man ; rope along bush means liana. Missis ! man 
belong bullamacow him stop (the butcher has come). What for 
you wipe hands belong-a you on clothes belong esseppoon ? (spoon, 
i.e. napkin). Cf. above the expressions for ' bald.' Piccaninny 
belong banana ' a young b. plant.' Belong also naturally means 
* to live in, be a native of ' ; boy belong island, he belong Burri- 
burrigan. The preposition along is used about many local rela- 
tions (in, at, on, into, on board). From such combinations as 
laugh along (1. at) and he speak along this fella the transition is 
easy to cases in which along serves to indicate the indirect 
object : he give'm this fella Eve along Adam, and also a kind of 
direct object, as in fight alonga him, you gammon along me (deceive, 
lie to me), and with the form belong : he puss-puss belong this 
fellow (puss-puss orig. a cat, then as a verb to caress, make 
love to). 

There is no distinction of gender : that woman he brother belong 
me = ' she is my sister ' ; he (before the verb) and him (in all 
other positions) serve both for he, she and it. There is a 
curious use of 'm, um or em, in our texts often written him, after 
a verb as a ' vocal sign of warning that an object of the verb is 
to follow,' no matter what that object is. 

Churchill says that " in the adjective comparison is un- 
known ; the islanders do not know how to think comparatively 
at least, they lack the form of words by which comparison may 
be indicated ; this big, that small is the nearest they can come 
to the expression of the idea that one thing is greater than 
another." But Landtman recognizes more big and also more 
better : ' no good make him that fashion, more better make 
him all same.' The same double comparative I find in another 
place, used as a kind of verb meaning ' ought to, had better ' : 
more better you come out. Too simply means ' much ' : he sa vy 
too much ' he knows much ' (praise, no blame), he too much talk. 
A synonym is plenty too much. Schuchardt gives the explanation 
of this trait : " The white man was the teacher of the black 
man, who imitated his manner of speaking. But the former 
would constantly use the strongest expressions and exaggerate 
in a manner that he would only occasionally resort to in speaking 


to his own countrymen. He did not say, ' You are very lazy,' 
but ' You are too lazy,' and this will account for the fact that 
' very ' is called too much in Beach-la-mar as well as tumussi 
in the Negro-English of Surinam " (Spr. der Saramakkaneger, 
p. iv). 

Verbs have no tense-forms ; when required, a future may 
be indicated by means of by and by : brother belong-a-me by 
and by he dead (my br. is dying), bymby all men laugh along that 
boy ; he small now, bymbye he big. It may be qualified by 
additions like bymby one time, bymby little bit, bymby big bit, and 
may be used also of the ' postpreterit ' (of futurity relative to a 
past time) : by and by boy belong island he speak. Another way of 
expressing the future is seen in that woman he close up born (!) 
him piccaninny ' that woman will shortly give birth to a child.' 
The usual sign of the perfect is been, the only idiomatic form of 
the verb to be : you been take me along three year ; I been look 
round before. But finish may also be used : me look him finish 
(I have seen him), he kaikai all finish (he has eaten it all up). 

Where we should expect forms of the verb ' to be,' there is 
either no verb or else stop is used : no water stop (there is no 
water), rain he stop (it rains), two white men stop Matupi (live in), 
other day plenty money he stop ( . . . I had . . . ). For ' have ' 
they say got. My belly no got kaikai (I am hungry), he got good 
hand (is skilful). 

XII. 3. Sounds. 

About the phonetic structure of Beach-la-mar I have very 
little information ; as a rule the words in my sources are spelt 
in the usual English way. Churchill speaks in rather vague terms 
about difficulties which the islanders experience in imitating the 
English sounds, and especially groups of consonants : " Any 
English word which on experiment proved impracticable to the 
islanders has undergone alteration to bring it within the scope 
of their familiar range of sounds or has been rejected for some 
facile synonym." Thus, according to him, the conjunction */ 
could not be used on account of the /, and that is the reason 
for the constant use of suppose (s'pose, pose, posum = s'pose 
him) but it may be allowable to doubt this, for as a matter of 
fact / occurs very frequently in the language for instance, in the 
well-worn words fellow and finish. Suppose probably is pre- 
ferred to if because it is fuller in form and less abstract, and there- 
fore easier to handle, while the islanders have many occasions 
to hear it in other combinations than those in which it is an 
equivalent of the conjunction. 

3] SOUNDS 221 

Landtman says that with the exception of a few sounds 
(j, ch, and t h as in nothing) the Kiwai Papuans have little diffi- 
culty in pronouncing English words. 

Schuchardt gives a little more information about pronunci- 
ation, and instances esterrong = strong, esseppoon = spoon, essauce- 
pen = saucepan, pdlate = plate, coverra = cover, millit = milk, 
bock-kiss = box (in Churchill bokus, bokkis) as mutilations due 
to the native speech habits. He also gives the following letter 
from a native of the New Hebrides, communicated to him by 
R. H. Codrington ; it shows many sound substitutions : 

Misi Kamesi Arelu Jou no kamu ruki mi Mi no ruki iou Jou 
ruku Mai Poti i ko Mae tete Vakaromala mi raiki tiripi Ausi 
parogi iou i rukauti Mai Poti mi nomoa kaikai mi angikele nau 
Poti mani Mae i kivi iou Jamu Vari koti iou kivi tamu te pako 
paraogi mi i penesi nomoa te Pako. 

Oloraiti Ta, MATASO. 

This means as much as : 

Mr. Comins, (How) are you ? You no come look me ; me 
no look you ; you look my boat he go Mae to-day. Vakaromala 
me like he sleep house belong you, he look out my boat, me no 
more kaikai, me hungry now, boat man Mae he give you yam 
very good, you give some tobacco belong (here = to) me, he 
finish, no more tobacco. 

All right Ta, MATASO. 

There are evidently many degrees of approximation to the 
true English sounds. 

This letter also shows the characteristic tendency to add a 
vowel, generally a short t, to words ending in consonants. This 
is old, for I find in Defoe's Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 
(1719, p. 211) : "All those natives, as also those of Africa, when 
they learn English, they always add two E's at the end of the 
words where we use one, and make the accent upon them, as 
makee, takee and the like." (Note the un-phonetic expressions !) 
Landtman, besides this addition, as in belongey, also mentions 
a more enigmatic one of lo to words ending in vowels, as clylo for 
' cry ' (cf. below on Pidgin). 

XH. 4. Pidgin. 

I now turn to Pidgin-English. As is well known, this is the 
name of the jargon which is very extensively used in China, and 
to some extent also in Japan and California, as a means of com- 
munication between English-speaking people and the yellow 


population. The name is derived from the Chinese distortion 
of the Engl. word business. Unfortunately, the sources available 
for Pidgin-English as actually spoken in the East nowadays are 
neither so full nor so exact as those for Beach-la-mar, and the 
following sketch, therefore, is not quite satisfactory. 1 

Pidgin-English must have developed pretty soon after the 
first beginning of commercial relations between the English and 
Chinese. In Engl. Studien, 44. 298, Prick van Wely has printed 
some passages of C F. Noble's Voyage to the East Indies in 1747 
and 1748, in which the Chinese are represented as talking to the 
writer in a " broken and mixed dialect of English and Portu- 
guese," the specimens given corresponding pretty closely to the 
Pidgin of our own days. Thus, he no cari Chinaman's Joss, hap 
oter Joss, which is rendered, 'that man does not worship our 
god, but has another god ' ; the Chinese are said to be unable to 
pronounce r and to use the word chin-chin for compliments and 
pickenini for ' small.' 

The latter word seems now extinct in Pidgin proper, though 
we have met it in Beach-la-mar, but Joss is still very frequent 
in Pidgin : it is from Portuguese Deus, Deos (or Span. Dios) : 
Joss-house is a temple or church, Joss-pidgin religion, Joss-pidgin 
man a clergyman, topside Joss-pidgin man a bishop. Chin-chin, 
according to the same source, is from Chinese ts'ing-ts'ing, 
Pekingese ch'ing-ch'ing, a term of salutation answering to ' thank 
you, adieu,' but the English have extended its sphere of appli- 
cation very considerably, using it as a noun meaning * saluta- 
tion, compliment,' and as a verb meaning " to worship (by bow- 
ing and striking the chin), to reverence, adore, implore, to 
deprecate anger, to wish one something, invite, ask " (Leland). 
The explanation given here within parentheses shows how the 
Chinese word has been interpreted by popular etymology, and 
no doubt it owes its extensive use partly to its sound, which has 
taken the popular fancy. Chin-chin joss means religious worship 
of any kind. 

Simpson says : ** Many of the words in use are of unknown 
origin. In a number of cases the English suppose them to be 

1 There are many specimens in Charles G. Leland, Pidgin-English Sing- 
Song, or Songs and Stories in the China-English Dialect, with a Vocabulary 
(5th ed., London, 1900), but they make the impression of being artificially 
made-up to amuse the readers, and contain a much larger proportion of 
Chinese words than the rest of my sources would warrant. Besides various 
articles in newspapers I have used W. Simpson, " China's Future Place in 
Philology " (Macmillan's Magazine, November 1873) and Dr. Legge's article 
" Pigeon English " in Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1901 (s.v. China). The 
chapters devoted to Pidgin in Karl Lentzner's Dictionary of the Slang- 
English of Australia and of some Mixed Languages (Halle, 1892) give little else 
but wholesale reprints of passages from some of the sources mentioned above. 

4] PIDGIN 223 

Chinese, while the Chinese, on the other hand, take them to be 
English." Some of these, however, admit now of explanation, 
and not a few of them point to India, where the English have 
learnt them and brought them further East. Thus chit, chitty, 
* a letter, an account,' is Hindustani chitthi ; godown ' ware- 
house ' is an English popular interpretation of Malay gadong, 
from Tamil gidangi. Chowchow seems to be real Chinese and to 
mean ' mixed preserves,' but in Pidgin it has acquired the wider 
signification of 'food, meal, to eat,' besides having various other 
applications : a chowchow cargo is an assorted cargo, a ' general 
shop ' is a chowchow shop. Cumshaw ' a present ' is Chinese. 
But tiffin, which is used all over the East for ' lunch,' is really 
an English word, properly tiffing, from the slang verb to tiff, to 
drink, esp. to drink out of meal-times. In India it was applied 
to the meal, and then reintroduced into England and believed 
to be a native Indian word. 

XH 5. Grammar, etc. 

Among points not found in Beach-la-mar I shall mention 
the extensive use of piecee, which in accordance with Chinese 
grammar is required between a numeral and the noun indicating 
what is counted ; thus in a Chinaman's description of a three- 
masted screw steamer with two funnels : " Thlee piecee bam- 
boo, two piecee puff-puff, walk-along inside, no can see " (walk- 
along = the engine). Side means any locality : he belonqey 
China-side now (he is in China), topside above, or high, bottom- 
side below, farside beyond, this-side here, olio-side around. In 
a similar way time (pronounced tim or teem) is used in that-tim 
then, when, what-tim when ? one-tim once, only, two-tim twice, 
again, nother-tim again. 

In one respect the Chinese sound system is accountable for 
a deviation from Beach-la-mar, namely in the substitution 
of I for r: loom, all light for 'room, all right,' etc., while the 
islanders often made the inverse change. But the tendency to 
add a vowel after a final consonant is the same : makee, too 
muchee, etc. The enigmatic termination lo, which Landtman found 
in some words in New Guinea, is also added to some words ending 
in vowel sounds in Pidgin, according to Leland, who instances 
die-lo, die ; in his texts I find the additional examples bv.y-lo, say-lo, 
pay-lo, hear-lo, besides wailo, or wylo, which is probably from away ; 
it means ' go away, away with you ! go, depart, gone.' Can it 
be the Chinese sign of the past tense la, lao, generalized ? 

Among usual expressions must be mentioned number one 
(numpa one) ' first-class, excellent,' catchee ' get, possess, hold, 


bring,' etc., ploper (plopa) ' proper, good, nice, correct ' : you 
belong ploper ? l are you well ? ' 

Another word which was not in use among the South Sea 
islanders, namely liave, in the form hab or hap is often used in 
Pidgin, even to form the perfect. Belong (belongy) is nearly 
as frequent as in Beach-la-mar, but is used in a different way : 
' My belongy Consoo boy,' ' I am the Consul's servant.' ' You 
belong clever inside,' 'you are intelligent.' The usual way of 
asking the price of something is ' how much belong ? ' 

XII. 6. General Theory. 

Lingos of the same type as Beach-la-mar and Pidgin-English 
are found in other parts of the world where whites and natives 
meet and have to find some medium of communication. Thus 
a Danish doctor living in Belgian Congo sends me a few speci- 
mens of the ' Pidgin ' spoken there : to indicate that his master 
has received many letters from home, the ' boy ' will say, 
" Massa catch plenty mammy-book " mammy meaning ' woman, 
wife '). Breeze stands for air in general ; if the boy wants to 
say that he has pumped up the bicycle tyres, he will say, 
" Plenty breeze live for inside," live being here the general term 
for 'to be ' (Beach-1. took) ; ' is your master in ? ' becomes 
' Massa live ? ' and the answer is ' he no live ' or * he live for 
hup ' (i.e. he is upstairs). If a man has a stomach-ache he will 
say ' he hurt me for belly plenty too much ' too much is thus 
used exactly as in Beach-la-mar and Chinese Pidgin. The 
similarity of all these jargons, in spite of unavoidable smaller 
differences, is in fact very striking indeed. 

It may be time now to draw the moral of all this. And first 
I want to point out that these languages are not ' mixed 
languages ' in the proper sense of that term. Churchill is not 
right when he says that Beach-la-mar " gathered material from 
every source, it fused them all." As a matter of fact, it is 
English, and nothing but English, with very few admixtures, 
and all of these are such words as had previously been 
adopted into the English speech of those classes of the popu- 
lation, sailors, etc., with whom the natives came into contact : 
they were therefore justified in their belief that these words 
formed part of the English tongue and that what they learned 
themselves was real English. The natives really adhere to 
Windisch's rule about the adoption of loan-words (above, XI 10). 
If there are more Chinese words in Pidgin than there are Poly- 
nesian ones in Beach-la-mar, this is a natural consequence 
of the fact that the Chinese civilization ranked incomparably 


much higher than the Polynesian, and that therefore the 
English living in China would adopt these words into their own 
speech. Still, their number is not very large. And we have 
seen that there are some words which the Easterners must 
naturally suppose to be English, while the English think that 
they belong to the vernacular, and in using them each party 
is thus under the delusion that he is rendering a service to the 

This leads me to my second point : those deviations from 
correct English, those corruptions of pronunciation and those 
simplifications of grammar, which have formed the object of 
this short sketch, are due just as much to the English as to the 
Easterners, and in many points they began with the former 
rather than with the latter (cf. Schuchardt, Auf anlass des 
Volapuks, 1888, 8 ; KS 4. 35, SID 36; ESt 15. 292). From 
Schuchardt I take the following quotation : " The usual question 
on reaching the portico of an Indian bungalow is, Can missus see ? 
it being a popular superstition amoogst the Europeans that 
to enable a native to understand English he must be addressed 
as if he were deaf, and in the most infantile language." This 
tendency to meet the ' inferior races ' half-way in order to facili- 
tate matters for them is by Churchill called " the one supreme 
axiom of international philology : the proper way to make a 
foreigner understand what you would say is to use broken 
English. He speaks it himself, therefore give him what he uses." 
We recognize here the same mistaken notion that we have seen 
above in the language of the nursery, where mothers and others 
will talk a curious sort of mangled English which is believed to 
represent real babytalk, though it has many traits which are 
purely conventional. In both cases these more or less artificial 
perversions are thought to be an aid to those who have not yet 
mastered the intricacies of the language in question, though the 
ultimate result is at best a retardation of the perfect acquisition 
of correct speech. 

My view, then, is that Beach-la-mar as well as Pidgin is 
English, only English learnt imperfectly, in consequence partly 
of the difficulties always inherent in learning a totally different 
language, partly of the obstacles put in the way of learning by 
the linguistic behaviour of the English-speaking people them- 
selves. The analogy of its imperfections with those of a baby's 
speech in the first period is striking, and includes errors of pro- 
nunciation, extreme simplification of grammar, scantiness of 
vocabulary, even to such peculiarities as that the word too is 
apprehended in the sense of ' very much,' and such phrases as 
you better go, etc. 



XII. 7. Mauritius Creole. 

The view here advanced on the character of these ' Pidgin ' 
languages is corroborated when we see that other languages under 
similar circumstances have been treated in exactly the same way 
as English. With regard to French in the island of Mauritius, 
formerly He de France, we are fortunate in possessing an ex- 
cellent treatment of the subject by M. C. Baissac (Etude sur le 
Patois Creole Mauricien, Nancy, 1880 ; cf. the same writer's Le 
Folk-lore de V lie-Maurice, Paris, 1888, Les litteratures populaires, 
tome xxvii). The island was uninhabited when the French 
occupied it in 1715 ; a great many slaves were imported from 
Madagascar, and as a means of intercourse between them and 
their French masters a French Creole language sprang up, which 
has survived the English conquest (1810) and the subsequent 
wholesale introduction of coolies from India and elsewhere. The 
paramount element in the vocabulary is French ; one may read 
many pages in Baissac 's texts without coming across any foreign 
words, apart from the names of some indigenous animals and 
plants. In the phonetic structure there are a few all-pervading 
traits : the front-round vowels are replaced by the corresponding 
unrounded vowels or in a few cases by [u], and instead of [/, 5] 
we find [s, z] ; thus eri heureux, ene plime une plume, sakene 
chacun(e), zize juge, zunu genou, suval cheval : I replace Baissac 's 
notation, which is modelled on the French spelling, by a more 
phonetic one according to his 01 ra indications ; but I keep his 
final e muet. 

The grammar of this language is as simple as possible. Sub- 
stantives have the same form for the two numbers : de suval 
deux chevaux. There is no definite article. The adjective is 
invariable, thus also sa for ce, cet, cette, ces, ceci, cela, celui, 
celle, ceux, celles. Mo before a verb is ' I,' before a substantive 
it is possessive : mo kone I know, mo lakaze my house ; in the 
same way to is you and your, but in the third person a dis- 
tinction is made, for U is he or she, but his or her is so, and 
here we have even a plural, zaute from ' les autres,' which form 
is also used as a plural of the second person : mo va alle av zaut, 
I shall go with you. 

The genitive is expressed by word-order without any pre- 
position : lakase so papa his father's house ; also with so before the 
nominative : so piti ppa Azor old Azor's child. 

The form in which the French words have been taken over 
presents some curious features, and in some cases illustrates the 
difficulty the blacks felt in separating the words which they 
heard in the French utterance as one continuous stream of 


sounds. There is evidently a disinclination to begin a word with 
a vowel, and sometimes an initial vowel is left out, as bitation 
habitation, tranzi etranger, but in other cases z is taken from 
the French plural article : zozo oiseau, zistoire, zenfan, zimaze 
image, zalfan elephant, zanimo animal, or n from the French 
indefinite article : name, ghost, nabi (or zabi) habit. In many 
cases the whole French article is taken as an integral part of the 
word, as Urat rat, Uroi, licien chien, latabe table, lire heure (often 
as a conjunction ' when ') ; thus also with the plural article 
lizii from Us yeux, but without the plural signification : ine 
lizie an eye. Similarly ine lazoie a goose. Words that are often 
used in French with the so-called partitive article keep this ; thus 
disel salt, divin wine, duri rice, ine dipin a loaf ; here also we 
meet with one word from the French plural : ine dizif an egg, 
from des ceufs. The French mass-word with the partitive article 
du monde has become dimunde or dumune, and as it means 
' people ' and no distinction is made between plural and singular, 
it is used also for ' person ' : ine vie dimunde an old man. 

Verbs have only one form, generally from the French infi- 
nitive or past participle, which in most cases would fall together 
(manzi = manger, mange ; kuri = courir, couru) ; this serves 
for all persons in both numbers and all moods. But tenses are 
indicated by means of auxiliary words : va for the future, ti 
(from iti) for the ordinary past, and fine for the perfect : mo 
manzi I eat, mo va manzi I shall eat, mo ti manzi I ate, mo 
fine manzi I have eaten, mo fine fini I have finished. Further, 
there is a curious use of apre to express what in English are called 
the progressive or expanded tenses : mo apri manzi I am eating, 
mo ti apre manzi I was eating, and of pour to express the imme- 
diate future : mo pour manzi I am going to eat, and finally an 
immediate past may be expressed by fek : mo fek manzi I have 
just been eating (je ne fais que de manger). As these may be 
combined in various ways (mo va fine manzi I shall have eaten, 
even mo ti va fek manzi I should have eaten a moment ago, etc.), 
the language has really succeeded in building up a very fine and 
rich verbal system with the simplest possible means and with 
perfect regularity. 

The French separate negatives have been combined into one word 

each : napa not (there is not), narien nothing, and similarly nek only. 

In many cases the same form is used for a substantive or 

adjective and for a verb : mo soif, mo faim I am thirsty and 

hungry ; li content so madame he is fond of his wife. 

Cote (or a c6te) is a preposition ' by the side of, near,' but 
also means ' where ' : la case acote U resti ' the house in which he 
lives ' ; cf . Pidgin side. 


In all this, as will easily be seen, there is very little French 
grammar ; this will be especially evident when we compare the 
French verbal system with its many intricacies : difference 
according to person, number, tense and mood with their endings, 
changes of root-vowels and stress-place, etc., with the un- 
changed verbal root and the invariable auxiliary syllables of 
the Creole. But there is really as little in the Creole dialect of 
Malagasy grammar, as I have ascertained by looking through 
G. W. Parker's Grammar (London, 1883) : both nations in form- 
ing this means of communication have, as it were, stripped them- 
selves of all their previous grammatical habits and have spoken 
as if their minds were just as innocent of grammar as those of 
very small babies, whether French or Malagasy. Thus, and 
thus only, can it be explained that the grammar of this variety 
of French is for all practical purposes identical with the grammar 
of those two varieties of English which we have previously ex- 
amined in this chapter 

No one can read Baissac's collection of folk-tales from 
Mauritius without being often struck with the felicity and even 
force of this language, in spite of its inevitable naweti and of the 
childlike simplicity of its constructions. If it were left to itself 
it might develop into a really fine idiom without abandoning 
any of its characteristic traits. But as it is, it seems to be con- 
stantly changing through the influence of real French, which is 
more and more taught to and imitated by the islanders, and the 
day may come when most of the features described in this rapid 
sketch will have given place to something which is less original, 
but will be more readily understood by Parisian globe-trotters 
who may happen to visit the distant island. 

XII. 8. Chinook Jargon. 

The view here advanced may be further put to the test if 
we examine a totally different language developed in another 
part of the world, viz. in Oregon. I give its history in an 
abridged form from Hale. 1 When the first British and American 
trading ships appeared on the north-west coast of America, towards 
the end of the eighteenth century, they found a great number of 
distinct languages, the Nootka, Nisqually, Chinook, Chihailish and 

1 See An International Idiom. A Manual of the Oregon Trade Language, 
or Chinook Jargon, by Horatio Hale (London, 1890). Besides this I have 
used a Vocabulary of the Jargon or Trade Language of Oregon [by Lionnet] 
published by the Smithsonian Institution (1853), and George Gibbs, A 
Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon (Smithsonian Inst., 1863). Lionnet spells 
the words according to the French fashion, while Gibbs and Hale spell them 
in the English way. I have given them with the continental values of the 
vowals in accordance with the indications in Kale's glossary. 


others, all of them harsh in pronunciation, complex in structure, 
and each spoken over a very limited space. The traders learnt 
a few Nootka words and the Indians a few English words. 
Afterwards the traders began to frequent the Columbia River, 
and naturally attempted to communicate with the natives there 
by means of the words which they had found intelligible at 
Nootka. The Chinooks soon acquired these words, both Nootka 
and English. When later the white traders made permanent 
establishments in Oregon, a real language was required ; and 
it was formed by drawing upon the Chinook for such words as 
were requisite, numerals, pronouns, and some adverbs and other 
words. Thus enriched, ' the Jargon,' as it now began to be 
styled, became of great service as a means of general intercourse. 
Now, French Canadians in the service of the fur companies were 
brought more closely into contact with the Indians, hunted with 
them, and lived with them on terms of familiarity. The con- 
sequence was that several French words were added to the slender 
stock of the Jargon, including the names of various articles of 
food and clothing, implements, several names of the parts of the 
body, and the verbs to run, sing and dance, also one conjunction, 
puis, reduced to pi. 

" The origin of some of the words is rather whimsical. The 
Americans, British and French are distinguished by the terms 
Boston, Kinchotsh (King George), and pasaiuks, which is presumed 
to be the word Franfais (as neither /, r nor the nasal n can be 
pronounced by the Indians) with the Chinook plural termination 
uks added. . . . ' Foolish ' is expressed by pelton or pilton, derived 
from the name of a deranged person, one Archibald Pelton, whom 
the Indians saw at Astoria ; his strange appearance and actions 
made such an impression upon them, that thenceforward anyone 
behaving in an absurd or irrational manner " was termed pdton. 

The phonetic structure is very simple, and contains no sound 
or combination that is not easy to Englishmen and Frenchmen 
as well as to Indians of at least a dozen tribes. The numerous 
harsh Indian velars either disappear entirely or are softened to h 
and k. On the other hand, the d, f, r, v, z of the English and 
French become in the mouth of a Chinook t, p, I, w, s. Examples : 

Chinook : thliakso yakso hair 

eisghot iishut black bear 

tkalaitanam lealaitan arrow, shot, bullet 

ntshaika nesaika we 

mshaika mtsaika we 

thlaitshka klaska (tlcuka) they 

tkhlon Idon (tlun) three 



English : 

handkerchief hakatshum (kenkeshim) 


cry klai, kalai (kai) 

cry, mourn 

fire paid 

fire, cook, ripe 

dry tlai, delai 


French : 

courir kuli 


la boucht labus (labush) 


le mouton lemuio 


The forms in parentheses are those of the French glossary 

It will be noticed that many of the French words have the 
definite article affixed (a trait noticed in many words in the 
French Creole dialect of Mauritius). More than half of the words 
in Hale's glossary beginning with I have this origin, thus labutai 
bottle, lakloa cross, lamie an old woman (la vieille), lapushet fork 
(la fourchette), latla noise (faire du train), lidu finger, lejaub (or 
diaub, yaub) devil (le diable), Uma hand, liplet missionary (le 
pretre), Hid tooth. The plural article is found in lisdp egg (les 
ceufs) the same word in which Mauritius French has also 
adopted the plural form. 

Some of the meanings of English words are rather curious ; 
thus, kol besides ' cold ' means ' winter,' and as the years, as with 
the old Scandinavians, are reckoned by winters, also ' year.' 
Sun (son) besides ' sun ' also means * day.' Spos (often pro- 
nounced pos), as in Beach-la-mar, is a common conjunction, 'if, 

The grammar is extremely simple. Nouns are invariable ; 
the plural generally is not distinguished from the singular ; 
sometimes haiu (ayo) ' much, many ' is added by way of em- 
phasis. The genitive is shown by position only : kahta nem 
maika papa ? (lit., what name thou father) what is the name of 
your father ? The adjective precedes the noun, and com- 
parison is indicated by periphrasis. ' I am stronger than thou ' 
would be weke maika skukum kahkwa naika, lit. ' not thou 
strong as I.' The superlative is indicated by the adverb haids 
' great, very ' : haids oliman okuk kanim, that canoe is the 
oldest, lit., very old that canoe, or (according to Gibbs) by elip 
' first, before ' : elip klosh ' best.' 

The numerals and pronouns are from the Chinook, but the 
latter, at any rate, are very much simplified. Thus the pronoun 
for ' we ' is nesaika, from Chinook nlshaika, which is the ex- 
clusive form, meaning ' we here,' not including the person or 
persons addressed. 

Like the nouns, the verbs have only one form, the tense being 
left to be inferred from the context, or, if strictly necessary, 


being indicated by an adverb. The future, in the sense of 
' about to, ready to,' may be expressed by tike, which means 
properly * wish,' as naika papa tike mimalus (mimelust) my 
father is about to die. The verb ' to be ' is not expressed : 
maika pelton, thou art foolish. 

There is a much-used verb mdmuk, which means ' make, do, 
work ' and forms causatives, as mamuk chako ' make to come, 
bring,' mamuk mimalus ' kill.' With a noun : mamuk lalam 
(Fr. la rame) ' make oar,' i.e. ' to row,' mamuk pepe (make paper) 
' write,' mamuk po (make blow) ' fire a gun.' 

There is only one true preposition, kopa, which is used in 
various senses to, for, at, in, among, about, etc. ; but even 
this may generally be omitted and the sentence remain intelli- 
gible. The two conjunctions epos and pi have already been 

XII. 9. Chinook continued. 

In this way something is formed that may be used as a 
language in spite of the scantiness of its vocabulary. But a 
good deal has to be expressed by the tone of the voice, the look 
and the gesture of the speaker. " The Indians in general," 
says Hale (p. 18), " are very sparing of their gesticulations. No 
languages, probably, require less assistance from this source than 
theirs. . . . We frequently had occasion to observe the sudden 
change produced when a party of the natives, who had been 
conversing in their own tongue, were joined by a foreigner, with 
whom it was necessary to speak in the Jargon. The coun- 
tenances, which had before been grave, stolid and inexpressive, 
were instantly lighted up with animation ; the low, monotonous 
tone became lively and modulated ; every feature was active ; 
the head, the arms and the whole body were in motion, and 
every look and gesture became instinct with meaning." 

In British Columbia and in parts of Alaska this language is 
the prevailing medium of intercourse between the whites and 
the natives, and there Hale thinks that it is likely to live " for 
hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of years to come." The 
language has already the beginning of a literature : songs, 
mostly composed by women, who sing them to plaintive native 
tunes. Hale gives some lyrics and a sermon preached by Mr. 
Eells, who has been accustomed for many years to preach to 
the Indians in the Jargon and who says that he sometimes even 
thinks in this idiom. 

Hale counted the words in this sermon, and found that to 
express the whole of its " historic and descriptive details, ita 


arguments and its appeals," only 97 different words were re- 
quired, and not a single grammatical inflexion. Of these words, 
65 were from Amerindian languages (46 Chinook, 17 Nootka, 
2 Salish), 23 English and 7 French. 

It is very instructive to go through the texts given by Hale 
and to compare them with the real Chinook text analysed in 
Boas's Handbook of American Indian Languages (Washington, 
1911, p. 666 ff.) : the contrast could not be stronger between 
simplicity carried to the extreme point, on the one hand, and 
an infinite complexity and intricacy on the other. But though 
it must be admitted that astonishingly much can be expressed 
in the Jargon by its very simple and few means, a European 
mind, while bewildered in the entangled jumble of the Chinook 
language, cannot help missing a great many nuances in the 
Jargon, where thoughts are reduced to their simplest formula 
and where everything is left out that is not strictly necessary 
to the least exacting minds. 

XII. 10. Makeshift Languages. 

To sum up, this Oregon trade language is to be classed 
together with Beach-la-mar and Pidgin- English, not perhaps 
as bastard ' or ' mongrel ' languages such expressions taken 
from biology always convey the wrong impression that a 
language is an ' organism ' and had therefore better be avoided 
but rather as makeshift languages or minimum languages, 
means of expression which do not serve all the purposes of 
ordinary languages, but may be used as substitutes where fuller 
and better ones are not available. 

The analogy between this Jargon and the makeshift languages 
of the East is closer than might perhaps appear at first blush, 
only we must make it clear to ourselves that English is in the 
two cases placed in exactly the inverse position. Pidgin and 
Beach-la-mar are essentially English learnt imperfectly by the 
Easterners, the Oregon Jargon is essentially Chinook learnt im- 
perfectly by the English. Just as in the East the English not only 
suffered but also abetted the yellows in their corruption of the 
English language, so also the Amerindians met the English 
half-way through simplifying their own speech. If in Polynesia 
and China the makeshift language came to contain some Poly- 
nesian and Chinese words, they were those which the English 
themselves had borrowed into their own language and which 
the yellows therefore must think formed a legitimate part of 
the language they wanted to speak ; and in the same way the 
American Jargon contains such words from the European 


languages as had been previously adopted by the reds. If the 
Jargon embraces so many French terms for the various parts 
of the body, one concomitant reason probably is that these 
names in the original Chinook language presented special diffi- 
culties through being specialized and determined by possessive 
affixes (my foot, for instance, is lekxeps, thy foot tdmeps, its 
foot Idaps, our (dual inclusive) feet tetzaps, your (dual) feet 
temtaps ; I simplify the notation in Boas's Handbook, p. 586), 
so that it was incomparably easier to take the French lepi and 
use it unchanged in all cases, no matter what the number, and 
no matter who the possessor was. The natives, who had learnt 
such words from the French, evidently used them to other 
whites under the impression that thereby they could make them- 
selves more readily understood, and the British and American 
traders probably imagined them to be real Chinook ; anyhow, 
their use meant a substantial economy of mental exertion. 

The chief point I want to make, however, is with regard to 
grammar. In all these languages, both in the makeshift 
English and French of the East and in the makeshift Amerindian 
of the North-West, the grammatical structure has been simpli- 
fied very much beyond what we find in any of the languages 
involved in their making, and simplified to such an extent that 
it may be expressed in very few words, and those nearly the 
same in all these languages, the chief rule being common to them 
all, that substantives, adjectives and verbs remain always un- 
changed. The vocabularies are as the poles asunder in the East 
English and French, in America Chinook, etc. but the morphology 
of all these languages is practically identical, because in all of 
them it has reached the vanishing-point. This shows conclu- 
sively that the reason of this simplicity is not the Chinese sub- 
stratum or the influence of Chinese grammar, as is so often 
believed. Pidgin-English cannot be described, as is often done, 
as English with Chinese pronunciation and Chinese grammar, 
because in that case we should expect Beach-la-mar to be quite 
different from it, as the substratum there would be Melanesian, 
which in many ways differs from Chinese, and further we should 
expect the Mauritius Creole to be French with Malagasy pro- 
nunciation and Malagasy grammar, and on the other hand the 
Oregon trade language to be Chinook with English pronunciation 
and English grammar but in none of these cases would this 
description tally with the obvious facts. We might just as well 
say that the speech of a two-year-old child in England is 
English with Chinese grammar, and . that of the two-year-old 
French child is French modelled on Chinese grammar : the 
truth on the contrary, is that in all these seemingly so different 


cases the same mental factor is at work, namely, imperfect 
mastery of a language, which in its initial stage, in the child 
with its first language and in the grown-up with a second 
language learnt by imperfect methods, leads to a superficial 
knowledge of the most indispensable words, with total disregard 
of grammar. Often, here and there, this is combined with a 
wish to express more than is possible with the means at hand, 
and thus generates the attempts to express the inexpressible by 
means of those more or less ingenious and more or less comical 
devices, with paraphrases and figurative or circuitous designa- 
tions, which we have seen first in the chapters on children's 
language and now again in Beach-la-mar and its congeners. 

Exactly the same characteristics are found again in the 
lingua geral Brazilica, which in large parts of Brazil serves as 
the means of communication between the whites and Indians 
or negroes and also between Indians of different tribes. It 
" possesses neither declension nor conjugation " and " places 
words after one another without grammatical flexion, with dis- 
regard of nuances in sentence structure, but in energetic brevity," 
it is "easy of pronunciation," with many vowels and no hard con- 
sonant groups in all these respects it differs considerably from the 
original Tupi, from which it has been evolved by the Europeans. 1 

Finally, I would point the contrast between these makeshift 
languages and slang : the former are an outcome of linguistic 
poverty ; they are born of the necessity and the desire to make 
oneself understood where the ordinary idiom of the individual 
is of no use, while slang expressions are due to a linguistic exu- 
berance : the individual creating them knows perfectly well the 
ordinary words for the idea he wants to express, but in youthful 
playfulness he is not content with what is everybody's property, 
and thus consciously steps outside the routine of everyday 
language to produce something that is calculated to excite 
merriment or even admiration on the part of his hearers. The 
results in both cases may sometimes show related features, for 
some of the figurative expressions of Beach-la-mar recall certain 
slang words by their bold metaphors, but the motive force in 
the two kinds is totally different, and where a comic effect is 
produced, in one case it is intentional and in the other unintentional. 

. 11. Romanic Languages. 

When Schuchardt began his studies of the various Creole 
languages formed in many parts of the world where Europeans 

1 See Martiua, Beitr. zur Ethnogr. und Sprachenkundc Amerika* (Leipzig, 
1867), i. 364 ff. and ii. 23 ff. 


speaking various Romanic and other languages had come into 
contact with negroes, Polynesians and other races, it was with 
the avowed intention of throwing light on the origin of the 
Romanic languages from a contact between Latin and the lan- 
guages previously spoken in the countries colonized by the 
Romans. We may now raise the question whether Beach-la- 
mar to take that as a typical example of the kind of languages 
dealt with in this chapter is likely to develop into a language 
which to the English of Great Britain will stand in the same 
relation as French or Portuguese to Latin. The answer cannot 
be doubtful if we adhere tenaciously to the points of view already 
advanced. Development into a separate language would be 
imaginable only on condition of a complete, or a nearly com- 
plete, isolation from the language of England (and America) 
and how should that be effected nowadays, with our present 
means of transport and communication ? If such isolation were 
indeed possible, it would also result in the breaking off of com- 
munication between the various islands in which Beach-la-mar 
is now spoken, and that would probably entail the speedy ex- 
tinction of the language itself in favour of the Polynesian language 
of each separate island. On the contrary, what will probably 
happen is a development in the opposite direction, by which the 
English of the islanders will go on constantly improving so as to 
approach correct usage more and more in every respect : better 
pronunciation and syntax, more flexional forms and a less scanty 
vocabulary in short, the same development that has already 
to a large extent taken place in the English of the coloured popu- 
lation in the United States. But this means a gradual extinction 
of Beach-la-mar as a separate idiom through its complete absorp- 
tion in ordinary English (cf. above, p. 228, on conditions at 

Do these * makeshift languages,' then, throw any light on 
the development of the Romanic languages ? They may be 
compared to the very first initial stage of the Latin language as 
spoken by the barbarians, many of whom may be supposed to 
have mutilated Latin in very much the same way as the Pacific 
islanders do English. But by and by they learnt Latin much 
better, and if now the Romanic languages have simplified the 
grammatical structure of Latin, this simplification is not to be 
placed on the same footing as the formlessness of Beach-la-mar, 
for that is complete and has been achieved at one blow : the 
islanders have never (i.e. have not yet) learnt the English form- 
system. But the inhabitants of France, Spain, etc., did learn 
the Latin form system as well as the syntactic use of the forms. 
This is seen by the fact that when French and the other languages 


began to be written down, there remained in them a large quantity 
of forms and syntactic applications that agree with Latin but 
have since then become extinct : in its oldest written form, 
therefore, French is very far from the amorphous condition of 
Beach-la-mar : in its nouns it had many survivals of the Latin 
case system (gen. pi. corresponding to -orum ; an oblique case 
different from the nominative and formed in vavious ways ac- 
cording to the rules of Latin declensions), in the verbs we find an 
intricate system of tenses, moods and persons, based on the 
Latin flexions. It is true that these had been already to some 
degree simplified, but this must have happened in the same 
gradual way as the further simplification that goes on before 
our very eyes in the written documents of the following cen- 
turies : the distance from the first to the tenth century must have 
been bridged over in very much the same way as the distance 
between the tenth and the twentieth century. No cataclysm 
such as that through which English has become Beach-la-mar 
need on any account be invoked to explain the perfectly natural 
change from Latin to Old French and from Old French to 
Modern French. 


1. Women's Languages. 2. Tabu. 3. Competing Languages. 4. Sans- 
krit Drama. 5. Conservatism. 6. Phonetics and Grammar 
7. Choice of Words. 8. Vocabulary, j 9. Adverbs. 10. Periods. 
11. General Characteristics. 

XIII. 1. Women's Languages. 

THERE are tribes in which men and women are said to speak totally 
different languages, or at any rate distinct dialects. It will be 
worth our while to look at the classical example of this, which is 
mentioned in a great many ethnographical and linguistic works, 
viz. the Caribs or Caribbeans of the Small Antilles. The first to 
mention their distinct sex dialects was the Dominican Breton, who, 
in his Dictionnaire Caraibe-franfais (1664), says that the Caribbean 
chief had exterminated all the natives except the women, who had 
retained part of their ancient language. This is repeated in many 
subsequent accounts, the fullest and, as it seems, most reliable 
of which is that by Rochefort, who spent a long time among the 
Caribbeans in the middle of the seventeenth century : see his 
Histoirenaturelle et morale des lies Antilles (2e ed., Rotterdam, 1665, 
p. 449 ff.). Here he says that " the men have a great many expres- 
sions peculiar to them, which the women understand but never 
pronounce themselves. On the other hand, the women have words 
and phrases which the men never use, or they would be laughed 
to scori^. Thus it happens that in their conversations it often 
seems as if the women had another language than the men. . . . The 
savage natives of Dominica say that the reason for this is that when 
the Caribs came to occupy the islands these were inhabited by 
an Arawak tribe which they exterminated completely, with the 
exception of the women, whom they married in order to populate 
the country. Now, these women kept their own language and taught 
it to their daughters. . . . But though the boys understand 
the speech of their mothers and sisters, they nevertheless follow 
their fathers and brothers and conform to their speech from the 
age of five or six. ... It is asserted that there is some similarity 
between the speech of the continental Arawaks and that of the 
Carib women. But the Carib men and women on the continent 

238 THE WOMAN [CH. xin 

speak the same language, as they have never corrupted their 
natural speech by marriage with strange women." 

This evidently is the account which forms the basis of every- 
thing that has since been written on the subject. But it will be 
noticed that Rochefort does not really speak of the speech of the 
two sexes as totally distinct languages or dialects, as has often 
been maintained, but only of certain differences within the same 
language. If we go through the comparatively full and evidently 
careful glossary attached to his book, in which he denotes the 
words peculiar to the men by the letter H and those of the women 
by F, we shall see that it is only for about one-tenth of the vocabu- 
lary that such special words have been indicated to him, though the 
matter evidently interested him very much, so that he would make 
all possible efforts to elicit them from the natives. In his lists, 
words special to one or the other sex are found most frequently 
in the names of the various degrees of kinship ; thus, ' my father ' 
in the speech of the men in youmdan, in that of the women nou- 
kduchili, though both in addressing him say bdba ; ' my grand- 
father ' is itdmoulou and ndrgouti respectively, and thus also for 
maternal uncle, son (elder son, younger son), brother-in-law, wife, 
mother, grandmother, daughter, cousin all of these are different 
according as a man or a woman is speaking. It is the same with 
the names of some, though far from all, of the different parts of 
the body, and with some more or less isolated words, as friend, 
enemy, joy, work, war, house, garden, bed, poison, tree, sun, moon, 
sea. earth. This list comprises nearly every notion for which 
Rochefort indicates separate words, and it will be seen that there 
are innumerable ideas for which men and women use the same 
word. Further, we see that where there are differences these do 
not consist in small deviations, such as different prefixes or suffixes 
added to the same root, but in totally distinct roots. Another 
point is very important to my mind : judging by the instances 
in which plural forms are given in the lists, the words of the two 
sexes are inflected in exactly the same way ; thus the grammar is 
common to both, from which we may infer that we have not 
really to do with two distinct languages in the proper sense of 
the word. 

Now, some light may probably be thrown on the problem of 
this women's language from a custom mentioned in some of the 
old books written by travellers who have visited these islands. 
Rochefort himself (p. 497) very briefly says that " the women do 
not eat till their husbands have finished their meal," and Lafitau 
(1724) says that women never eat in the company of their husbands 
and never mention them by name, but must wait upon them as 
their slaves ; with this Labat agrees. 

2] TABU 239 

. 2. Tabu. 

The fact that a wife is not allowed to mention the name of 
her husband makes one think that we have here simply an in- 
stance of a custom found in various forms and in varying degrees 
throughout the world what is called verbal tabu : under certain 
circumstances, at certain times, in certain places, the use of one or 
more definite words is interdicted, because it is superstitiously 
believed to entail certain evil consequences, such as exasperate 
demons and the like. In place of the forbidden words it is therefore 
necessary to use some kind of figurative paraphrase, to dig up an 
otherwise obsolete term, or to disguise the real word so as to render 
it more innocent. 

Now as a matter of fact we find that verbal tabu was a common 
practice with the old Caribs : when they were on the war-path 
they had a great number of mysterious words which women were 
never allowed to learn and which even the young men might not 
pronounce before passing certain tests of bravery and patriotism ; 
these war-words are described as extraordinarily difficult (" un 
baragoin fort difficile," Rochefort, p. 450). It is easy to see that 
when once a tribe has acquired the habit of using a whole set of 
terms under certain frequently recurring circumstances, while 
others are at the same time strictly interdicted, this may naturally 
lead to so many words being reserved exclusively for one of the 
sexes that an observer may be tempted to speak of separate 
' languages ' for the two sexes. There is thus no occasion to believe 
in the story of a wholesale extermination of all male inhabitants 
by another tribe, though on the other hand it is easy to understand 
how such a myth may arise as an explanation of the linguistic 
difference between men and women, when it has become strong 
enough to attract attention and therefore has to be accounted for. 

In some parts of the world the connexion between a separate 
women's language and tabu is indubitable. Thus among the 
Bantu people of Africa. With the Zulus a wife is not allowed to 
mention the name of her father-in-law and of his brothers, and if 
a similar word or even a similar syllable occurs in the ordinary 
language, she must substitute something else of a similar meaning. 
In the royal family the difficulty of understanding the women's 
language is further increased by the woman's being forbidden 
to mention the names of her husband, his father and grandfather 
as well as his brothers. If one of these names means something 
like " the son of the bull," each of these words has to be avoided, 
and all kinds of paraphrases have to be used. According to Kranz 
the interdiction holds good not only for meaning elements of the 
name, but even for certain sounds entering into them ; thus, if 

240 THE WOMAN [CH. xiii 

the name contains the sound z, amanzi ' water ' has to be altered 
into amandabi. If a woman were to contravene this rule she 
would be indicted for sorcery and put to death. The substitutes 
thus introduced tend to be adopted by others and to constitute a 
real women's language. 

With the Chiquitos in Bolivia the difference between the grammars 
of the two sexes is rather curious (see V. Henry, " Sur le parler 
des hommes et le parler des femmes dans la langue chiquita," Revue 
de linguistique, xii. 305, 1879). Some of Henry's examples may 
be thus summarized : men indicate by the addition of -tii that a 
male person is spoken about, while the women do not use this 
suffix and thus make no distinction between ' he ' and ' she,' ' his ' 
and ' her.' Thus in the men's speech the following distinctions 
would be made : 

He went to his house : yebolii ti n-ipooslii. 
He went to her house : yebolii ti n-ipoos. 
She went to his house : yebo ti n-ipoostii. 

But to express all these different meanings the women would have 
only one form, viz. 

yebo ti n-ipoos, 

which in the men's speech would mean only ' She went to her 

To many substantives the men prefix a vowel which the women 
do not employ, thus o-petas ' turtle,' u-tamokos ' dog,' i-pis ' wood. 1 
For some very important notions the sexes use distinct words ; thus, 
for the names of kinship, ' my father ' is iyai and isupu, ' my mother ' 
ipaki and ipapa, ' my brother ' tsaruki and icibaiLsi respectively. 

Among the languages of California, Yana, according to Dixon 
and Kroeber (The American Anthropologist, n.s. 5. 15), is the 
only language that shows a difference in the words used by men 
and women apart from terms of relationship, where a distinction 
according to the sex of the speaker is made among many Californian 
tribes as well as in other parts of the world, evidently " because 
the relationship itself is to them different, as the sex is different." 
But in Yana the distinction is a linguistic one, and curiously enough, 
the few specimens given all present a trait found already in the 
Chiquito forms, namely, that the forms spoken by women are shorter 
than those of the men, which appear as extensions, generally by 
suffixed -(ri)a, of the former. 

It is surely needless to multiply instances of these customs, which 
are found among many wild tribes ; the curious reader may be 
referred to Lasch, S. pp. 7-13, and H. Ploss and M. Bartels, Das Weib 
in der Natur und Volkerkunde (9th ed., Leipzig, 1908). The latter 

2] TABU 241 

says that the Suaheli system is not carried through so as to replace 
the ordinary language, but the Suaheli have for every object which 
they do not care to mention by its real name a symbolic word under- 
stood by everybody concerned. In especial such symbols are used 
by women in their mysteries to denote obscene things. The words 
chosen are either ordinary names for innocent things or else taken 
from the old language or other Bantu languages, mostly Kiziguha, 
for among the Waziguha secret rites play an enormous role. Bartels 
finally says that with us, too, women have separate names for 
everything connected with sexual life, and he thinks that it is the 
same feeling of shame that underlies this custom and the inter- 
diction of pronouncing the names of male relatives. This, however, 
does not explain everything, and, as already indicated, superstition 
certainly has a large share in this as in other forms of verbal tabu. 
See on this the very full account in the third volume of Frazer's 
The Golden Bough. 

XTTT. 3. Competing Languages. 

A difference between the language spoken by men and that 
spoken by women is seen in many countries where two languages 
are struggling for supremacy in a peaceful way thus without any 
question of one nation exterminating the other or the male part 
of it. Among German and Scandinavian immigrants in America 
the men mix much more with the English-speaking population, 
and therefore have better opportunities, and also more occasion, to 
learn English than their wives, who remain more within doors. 
It is exactly the same among the Basques, where the school, the 
military service and daily business relations contribute to the 
extinction of Basque in favour of French, and where these factors 
operate much more strongly on the male than on the female popula- 
tion : there are families in which the wife talks Basque, while 
the husband does not even understand Basque and does not allow 
his children to learn it (Bornecque et Miihlen, Les Provinces fran- 
yaises, 53). Vilhelm Thomsen informs me that the old Livonian 
language, which is now nearly extinct, is kept up with the 
greatest fidelity by the women, while the men are abandoning it 
for Lettish. Albanian women, too, generally know only Albanian, 
while the men are more often bilingual. 

XHL 4. Sanskrit Drama. 

There are very few traces of real sex dialects in our Aryan lan- 
guages, though we have the very curious rule in the old Indian 
drama that women talk Prakrit (prdkrta. the natural or vulgar 
language) while men have the privilege of talking Sanskrit (sam- 


242 THE WOMAN [CH. xm 

tkrta, tLe adorned language). The distinction, however, is not 
one of sex really, but of rank, for Sanskrit is the language of gods, 
kings, princes, brahmans, ministers, chamberlains, dancing -masters 
and other men in superior positions and of a very few .vomen of 
special religious importance, while Prakrit is spoken bj men of an 
inferior class, like shopkeepers, law officers, aldermen, bathmen, 
fishermen and policemen, and by nearly all women. The difference 
between the two ' languages ' is one of degree only : they are two 
strata of the same language, one higher, more solemn, stiff and 
archaic, and another lower, more natural and familiar, and this easy, 
or perhaps we should say slipshod, style is the only one recognized 
for ordinary women. The difference may not be greater than that 
between the language of a judge and that of a costermonger in a 
modern novel, or between Juliet's and her nurse's expressions 
in Shakespeare, and if all women, even those we should call the 
' heroines ' of the plays, use only the lower stratum of speech, the 
reason certainly is that the social position of women was so inferior 
that they ranked only with men of the lower orders and had no 
share in the higher culture which, with the refined language, was 
the privilege of a small class of selected men. 

Xm. 5. Conservatism. 

As Prakrit is a c younger ' and ' worn-out ' form of Sanskrit, 
the question here naturally arises : What is the general attitude 
of the two sexes to those changes that are constantly going on 
in languages ? Can they be ascribed exclusively or predominantly 
to one of the sexes ? Or do both equally participate in them ? 
An answer that is very often given is that as a rule women are more 
conservative than men, and that they do nothing more than keep 
to the traditional language which they have learnt from their 
parents and hand on to their children, while innovations are due 
to the initiative of men. Thus Cicero in an often-quoted passage 
says that when he hears his mother-in-law Laelia, it is to him as 
if he heard Plautus or Noevius, for it is more natural for women to 
keep the old language uncorrupted, as they do not hear many 
people's way of speaking and thus retain what they have first learnt 
(De oratore, III. 45). This, however, does not hold good in every 
respect and in every people. The French engineer, Victor Renault, 
who lived for a long time among the Botocudos (in South America) 
and compiled vocabularies for two of their tribes, speaks of the 
ease with which he could make the savages who accompanied him 
invent new words for anything. " One of them called out the 
word in a loud voice, as if seized by a sudden idea, and the others 
would repeat it amid laughter and excited shouts, and then it 


was universally adopted. But the curious thing is that it was 
nearly always the women who busied themselves in inventing new 
words as well as in composing songs, dirges and rhetorical essays. 
The word-formations here alluded to are probably names of object* 
that the Botocudos had not known previously ... as for horse, 
krainejoune, 'head-teeth'; for ox, po-kekri, 'foot-cloven'; for 
donkey, mgo-jonne-orone, ' beast with long ears.' But well-known 
objects which have already got a name have often similar new 
denominations invented for them, which are then soon accepted by 
the family and community and spread more and more " (v Mar- 
tius, Beitr. zur Ethnogr. u. Sprachenkunde Amerikou, 1867, i. 330). 

I may also quote what E. R. Edwards says in his fitudephonetique 
de la langue japonaise (Leipzig, 1903, p. 79) : " In France and in 
England it might be said that women avoid neologisms and are 
careful not to go too far away from the written forms : in Southern 
England the sound written wh [&.] is scarcely ever pronounced 
except in girls' schools. In Japan, on the contrary, women are 
less conservative than men, whether in pronunciation or in the 
selection of words and expressions. One of the chief reasons is 
that women have not to the same degree as men undergone the 
influence of the written language. As an example of the liberties 
which the women take may be mentioned that there is in the 
actual pronunciation of Tokyo a strong tendency to get rid of 
the sound (u?), but the women go further in the word atashi, which 
men pronounce watashi or watakshi, ' I.' Another tendency noticed 
in the language of Japanese women is pretty widely spread among 
French and English women, namely, the excessive use of intensive 
words and the exaggeration of stress and tone-accent to mark 
emphasis. Japanese women also make a much more frequent use 
than men of the prefixes of politeness o-, go- and mi-." 

XTTT. 6. Phonetics and Grammar. 

In connexion with some of the phonetic changes which have 
profoundly modified the English sound system we have express 
statements by old grammarians that women had a more advanced 
pronunciation than men, and characteristically enough these 
statements refer to the raising of the vowels in the direction 
of [i] ; thus in Sir Thomas Smith (1567), who uses expressions like 
" mulierculae quaedam delicatiores, et nonnulli qui volunt isto 
modo videri loqui urbanius," and in another place "fceminae 
quaedam delicatiores," further in Mulcaster (1582) 1 and in Milton's 

1 " Ai is the man's diphthong, and soundeth full : ei, the woman's, 
and soundeth finish [i.e. fineish] in the same both sense, and vse, a teaman 
t* deintit, andfeinteth soon, the man fainteih not byrause he v nothing daintie." 
Thus what is now distinctive of refined as opposed to vulgar pronunciation 
was then characteristic of the fair sex 

244 THE WOMAN [CH. xm 

teacher, Alexander Gill (1621), who speaks about "nostrae Mopsae, 
quae quidem ita omnia attenuant." 

In France, about 1700, women were inclined to pronounce e 
instead of o; thus Alemand (1688) mentions Barnabe as " fa^on 
de prononcer male " and Bernabe as the pronunciation of " les 
gens polis et delicats . . . les dames surtout "; and Grimarest (1712) 
speaks of " ces marchandes du Palais, qui au lieu de madame, 
boulevart, etc., prononcent medeme, boulevert " (Thurot i. 12 and 9). 

There is one change characteristic of many languages in which 
it seems as if women have played an important part even if they 
are not solely responsible for it : I refer to the weakening of the old 
fully trilled tongue-point r. I have elsewhere (Fonetik, p. 417 ff.) 
tried to show that this weakening, which results in various sounds 
and sometimes in a complete omission of the sound in some positions, 
is in the main a consequence of, or at any rate favoured by, a 
change in social life : the old loud trilled point sound is natural and 
justified when life is chiefly carried on out-of-doors, but indoor 
life prefers, on the whole, less noisy speech habits, and the more 
refined this domestic life is, the more all kinds of noises and even 
speech sounds will be toned down. One of the results is that this 
original r sound, the rubadub in the orchestra of language, is no 
longer allowed to bombard the ears, but is softened down in various 
ways, as we see chiefly in the great cities and among the educated 
classes, while the rustic population in many countries keeps up 
the old sound with much greater conservatism. Now we find that 
women are not unfrequently mentioned in connexion with this 
reduction of the trilled r ; thus in the sixteenth century in France 
there was a tendency to leave off the trilling and even to go further 
than to the present English untrilled point r by pronouncing [z] 
instead, but some of the old grammarians mention this pronuncia- 
tion as characteristic of women and a few men who imitate women 
(Erasmus : mulierculae Parisinse ; Sylvius : mulierculae . . . Parrhisinae, 
et earum modo quidam parum viri ; Pillot : Parisinse muliercula 
. . . adeo delicatulae sunt, ut propere dicant pese). In the ordinary 
language there are a few remnants of this tendency; thus, when 
by the side of the original chaire we now have also the form chaise, 
and it is worthy of note that the latter form is reserved for the 
everyday signification (Engl. chair, seat) as belonging more naturally 
to the speech of women, while chaire has the more special significa- 
tion of ' pulpit, professorial chair.' Now the same tendency to 
substitute [z] or after a voiceless sound [s] for r is found in our 
own days among the ladies of Christiania, who will say gzuelig 
for gruelig and fsygtelig for frygtelig (Brekke, Bidrag til dansknorskens 
lydlcere, 1881, p. 17 ; I have often heard the sound myself). And 
even in far-off Siberia we find that the Chuckchi women will say 


nidzak or nizak for the male nirak ' two,' zerka for rerka * walrus,' 
etc. (Nordqvist ; see fuller quotations in my Fonetik, p. 431). 

In present-day English there are said to be a few differences 
in pronunciation between the two sexes ; thus, according to Daniel 
Jones, soft is pronounced with a long vowel [so'ft] by men and with 
a short vowel [soft] by women ; similarly [geal] is said to be a 
special ladies' pronunciation of girl, which men usually pronounce 
[ga-1] ; cf. also on wh above, p. 243. So far as I have been able to 
ascertain, the pronunciation [f/uldran] for [t/ildran] children is 
much more frequent in women than in men. It may also be that 
women are more inclined to give to the word waistcoat the full 
long sound in both syllables, while men, who have occasion to 
use the word more frequently, tend to give it the historical form 
[weskat] (for the shortening compare breakfast). But even if such 
observations were multiplied as probably they might easily be 
by an attentive observer they would be only more or less isolated 
instances, without any deeper significance, and on the whole we 
must say that from the phonetic point of view there is scarcely 
any difference between the speech of men and that of women : the 
two sexes speak for all intents and purposes the same language. 

XIIL 7. Choice of Words. 

But when from the field of phonetics we come to that of vocabu- 
lary and style, we shall find a much greater number of differences, 
though they have received very little attention in linguistic works. 
A few have been mentioned by Greenough and Kittredge : " The 
use of common in the sense of ' vulgar ' is distinctly a feminine 
peculiarity. It would sound effeminate in the speech of a man. So, 
in a less degree, with person for ' woman,' in contrast to ' lady.' 
Nice for ' fine ' must have originated in the same way " (W, p. 54). 

Others have told me that men will generally say ' It's very 
good of you,' where women will say ' It's very kind of you.' 
But such small details can hardly be said to be really characteristic 
of the two sexes. There is no doubt, however, that women in all 
countries are shy of mentioning certain parts of the human body 
and certain natural functions by the direct and often rude denomina- 
tions which men, and especially young men, prefer when among 
themselves. Women will therefore invent innocent and euphemistic 
words and paraphrases, which sometimes may in the long run come 
to be looked upon as the plain or blunt names, and therefore in theii 
turn have to be avoided and replaced by more decent words. 

In Pinero's The Gay Lord Quex (p. 116) a lady discovers some 
French novels on the table of another lady, and says : " This is 
a little h'm isn't it ? " she does not even dare to say the word 

246 THE WOMAN [CH. xm 

'indecent,' and has to express the idea in inarticulate language. 
The word 'naked' is paraphrased in the following description 
by a woman of the work of girls in ammunition works : " They 
have to take off every stitch from their bodies in one room, and 
run in their innocence and nothing else to another room where 
the special clothing is " (Bennett, The Pretty Lady, 176). 

On the other hand, the old-fashioned prudery which prevented 
ladies from using such words as legs and trousers (" those manly 
garments which are rarely mentioned by name," says Dickens, 
Dombey, 335) is now rightly looked upon as exaggerated and more 
or less comical (cf. my GS 247). 

There can be no doubt that women exercise a great and universal 
influence on linguistic development through their instinctive 
shrinking from coarse and gross expressions and their preference 
for refined and (in certain spheres) veiled and indirect expressions. 
In most cases that influence will be exercised privately and in the 
bosom of the family ; but there is one historical instance in which 
a group of women worked in that direction publicly and collectively ; 
I refer to those French ladies who in the seventeenth century gathered 
in the Hdtel de Rambouillet and are generally known under the 
name of Precieuses. They discussed questions of spelling and 
of purity of pronunciation and diction, and favoured all kinds 
of elegant paraphrases by which coarse and vulgar words might 
be avoided. In many ways this movement was the counterpart 
of the literary wave which about that time was inundating Europe 
under various names Gongorism in Spain, Marinism in Italy, 
Euphuism in England ; but the Precieuses went further than their 
male confreres in desiring to influence everyday language. When, 
however, they used such expressions as, for ' nose,' ' the door of the 
brain,' for ' broom ' ' the instrument of cleanness,' and for ' shirt ' 
' the constant companion of the dead and the living ' (la com- 
pagne perpetuelle des morts et des vivants), and many others, their 
affectation called down on their heads a ripple of laughter, and 
their endeavours would now have been forgotten but for the im- 
mortal satire of Moliere in Les Precieuses ridicules and Les Femmea 
savantes. But apart from such exaggerations the feminine point 
of view is unassailable, and there is reason to congratulate those 
nations, the English among them, in which the social position of 
women has been high enough to secure greater purity and freedom 
from coarseness in language than would have been the case if 
men had been the sole arbiters of speech. 

Among the things women object to in language must be specially 
mentioned anything that smacks of swearing l ; where a man will 

1 There are great differences with regard to swearing batwfcan different 
nations; but I think that in those countries and in those circles in which 


say " He told an infernal lie," a women will rather say, " He told 
a most dreadful fib." Such euphemistic substitutes for the simple 
word ' hell ' as ' the other place,' ' a very hot ' or ' a very uncom- 
fortable place ' probably originated with women. They will also 
use ever to add emphasis to an interrogative pronoun, as in 
" Whoever told you that ? " or " Whatever do you mean ? " 
and avoid the stronger ' who the devil ' or * what the dickens.' 
For surprise we have the feminine exclamations ' Good gracious,' 
'Gracious me,' 'Goodness gracious,' 'Dear me' by the side of the 
more masculine ' Good heavens,' ' Great Scott.' ' To be sure ' is said 
to be more frequent with women than with men. Such instances 
might be multiplied, but these may suffice here. It will easily be 
seen that we have here civilized counterparts of what was above 
mentioned as sexual tabu ; but it is worth noting that the interdic- 
tion in these cases is ordained by the women themselves, or perhaps 
rather by the older among them, while the young do not always 
willingly comply. 

Men will certainly with great justice object that there is a danger 
of the language becoming languid and insipid if we are always to 
content ourselves with women's expressions, and that vigour and 
vividness count for something. Most boys and many men have 
a dislike to some words merely because they feel that they are used 
by everybody and on every occasion : they want to avoid what is 
commonplace and banal and to replace it by new and fresh ex- 
pressions, whose very newness imparts to them a flavour of their 
own. Men thus become the chief renovators of language, and 
to them are due those changes by which we sometimes see one 
term replace an older one, to give way in turn to a still newer one, and 
so on. Thus we see in English that the old verb weorpan, corre- 
sponding to G. werfen, was felt as too weak and therefore supplanted 
by cast, which was taken from Scandinavian ; after some centuries 
cast was replaced by the stronger throw, and this now, in the parlance 
of boys especially, is giving way to stronger expressions like chuck 
and fling. The old verbs, or at any rate cast, may be retained in 
certain applications, more particularly in some fixed combinations 
and in figurative significations, but it is now hardly possible to say, 
as Shakespeare does, " They cast their caps up." Many such 
innovations on their first appearance are counted as slang, and 
some never make their way into received speech ; but I am not 
in this connexion concerned with the distinction between slang 

swearing is common it IB found much more extensively among men than 
among women : this at any rate is true of Denmark. There is, however, a 
general social movement against swearing, and now there are many men 
who never swear. A friend writes to me: "The best English men hardly 
swear at all. ... I imagine some of our fashionable women now swear aa 
much as the men they consort with." 


and recognized language, except in so far as the inclination or 
disinclination to invent and to use slang is undoubtedly one of the 
" human secondary sexual characters." This is not invalidated 
by the fact that quite recently, with the rise of the feminist move- 
ment, many young ladies have begun to imitate their brothers in 
that as well as in other respects. 

. Vocabulary. 

This trait is indissolubly connected with another : the vocabulary 
of a woman as a rule is much less extensive than that of a man. 
Women move preferably in the central field of language, avoiding 
everything that is out of the way or bizarre, while men will often 
either coin new words or expressions or take up old-fashioned ones, 
if by that means they are enabled, or think they are enabled, to 
find a more adequate or precise expression for their thoughts. 
Woman as a rule follows the main road of language, where man is 
often inclined to turn aside into a narrow footpath or even to strike 
out a new path for himself. Most of those who are in the habit 
of reading books in foreign languages will have experienced a much 
greater average difficulty in books written by male than by female 
authors, because they contain many more rare words, dialect words, 
technical terms, etc. Those who want to learn a foreign language 
will therefore always do well at the first stage to read many ladies' 
novels, because they will there continually meet with just those 
everyday words and combinations which the foreigner is above 
all in need of, what may be termed the indispensable small-change 
of a language. 

This may be partly explicable from the education of women, 
which has up to quite recent times been less comprehensive and 
technical than that of men. But this does not account for every- 
thing, and certain experiments made by the American professor 
Jastrow would tend to show that we have here a trait that is inde- 
pendent of education. He asked twenty-five university students 
of each sex, belonging to the same class and thus in possession of 
the same preliminary training, to write down as rapidly as possible a 
hundred words, and to record the time. Words in sentences were 
not allowed. There were thus obtained 5,000 words, and of these 
many were of course the same. But the community of thought 
was greater in the women ; while the men used 1,375 different 
words, their female class-mates used only 1,123. Of 1,266 unique 
words used, 29-8 per cent, were male, only 20-8 per cent, female. 
The group into which the largest number of the men's words fell 
was the animal kingdom ; the group into which the largest number 
of the women's words fell was wearing apparel and fabrics ; vhile 


the men used only 53 words belonging to the class of foods, the 
women used 179. " In general the feminine traits revealed by 
this study are an attention to the immediate surroundings, to the 
finished product, to the ornamental, the individual, and the con- 
crete ; while the masculine preference is for the more remote, the 
constructive, the useful, the general and the abstract." (See 
Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, 4th ed., London, 1904, 
p. 189.) 

Another point mentioned by Jastrow is the tendency to select 
words that rime and alliterative words ; both these tendencies 
were decidedly more marked in men than in women. This shows 
what we may also notice in other ways, that men take greater 
interest in words as such and in their acoustic properties, while 
women pay less attention to that side of words and merely take 
them as they are, as something given once for all. Thus it comes 
that some men are confirmed punsters, while women are generally 
slow to see any point in a pun and scarcely ever perpetrate one 
themselves. Or, to get to something of greater value : the science 
of language has very few votaries among women, in spite of the 
fact that foreign languages, long before the reform of female educa- 
tion, belonged to those things which women learnt best in and out 
of schools, because, like music and embroidery, they were reckoned 
among the specially feminine ' accomplishments.' 

Woman is linguistically quicker than man : quicker to learn, 
quicker to hear, and quicker to answer. A man is slower: he 
hesitates, he chews the cud to make sure of the taste of words, and 
thereby comes to discover similarities with and differences from 
other words, both in sound and in sense, thus preparing himself 
for the appropriate use of the fittest noun or adjective. 

9. Adverbs. 

While there are a few adjectives, such as pretty and nice, that 
might be mentioned as used more extensively by women than by 
men, there are greater differences with regard to adverbs. Lord 
Chesterfield wrote (The World, December 5, 1754) : " Not contented 
with enriching our language by words absolutely new, my fair 
countrywomen have gone still farther, and improved it by the 
application and extension of old ones to various and very different 
significations. They take a word and change it, like a guinea into 
shillings for pocket-money, to be employed in the several occasional 
purposes of the day. For instance, the adjective vast and its 
adverb vastly mean anything, and are the fashionable words of the 
most fashionable people. A fine woman ... is vastly obliged, or 
vastly offended, vastly glad, or vastly sorry. Large objects are 

250 THE WOMAN [CH. xin 

vastly great, small ones are vastly little ; and I had lately the 
pleasure to hear a fine woman pronounce, by a happy metonymy, 
a very small gold snuff-box, that was produced in company, 
to be vastly pretty, because it was so vastly little." Even if 
that particular adverb to which Lord Chesterfield objected has 
now to a great extent gone out of fashion, there is no doubt 
that he has here touched on a distinctive trait : the fondness of 
women for hyperbole will very often lead the fashion with regard 
to adverbs of intensity, and these are very often used with disregard 
of their proper meaning, as in German riesig klein, English awfully 
pretty, terribly nice, French rudement joli, affreusement delicieux, 
Danish rcedsom morsom (horribly amusing), Russian strast' kakoy 
lovkiy (terribly able), etc. Quite, also, in the sense of ' very,' as 
in ' she was quite charming ; it makes me quite angry,' is, accord- 
ing to Fitzedward Hall, due to the ladies. And I suspect that just 
sweet (as in Barrie : " Grizel thought it was just sweet of him ") 
is equally characteristic of the usage of the fair sex. 

There is another intensive which has also something of the 
eternally feminine about it, namely so. I am indebted to Stoffel 
(Int. 101) for the following quotation from Punch (January 4, 
1896) : " This little adverb is a great favourite with ladies, in con- 
junction with an adjective. For instance, they are very fond of 
using such expressions as ' He is so charming ! ' * It is so lovely ! ' 
etc." Stoffel adds the following instances of strongly intensive 
so as highly characteristic of ladies' usage : ' Thank you so much ! ' 
* It was so kind of you to think of it ! ' ' That's so like you ! * 
' I'm so glad you've come ! ' ' The bonnet is so lovely ! ' 

The explanation of this characteristic feminine usage is, I think, 
that women much more often than men break off without finishing 
their sentences, because they start talking without having thought 
out what they are going to say ; the sentence 'I'm so glad you've 
come ' really requires some complement in the shape of a clause 
with that, ' so glad that I really must kiss you,' or, ' so glad that I 
must treat you to something extra,' or whatever the consequence 
may be. But very often it is difficult in a hurry to hit upon some- 
thing adequate to say, and ' so glad that I cannot express it ' 
frequently results in the inexpressible remaining unexpressed, and 
when that experiment has been repeated time after time, the lin- 
guistic consequence is that a strongly stressed so acquires the force 
of ' very much indeed.' It is the same with such, as in the 
following two extracts from a modern novel (in both it is a lady 
who is speaking) : " Poor Kitty ! she has been in such a state of 
mind," and " Do you know that you look such & duck this afternoon. 
. i". This hat suits you so you are such a grande dame in it." 
Exactly the same thing has happened with Danish sd and sddan, 

9] ADVERBS 251 

G. so and aolch ; also with French tdlement, though there perhaps 
not to the same extent as in English. 

We have the same phenomenon with to a degree, which properly 
requires to be supplemented with something that tells us what 
the degree is, but is frequently left by itself, as in ' His second 
marriage was irregular to a degree.' 

10. Periods. 

The frequency with which women thus leave their exclamatory 
sentences half-finished might be exemplified from many passages 
in our novelists and dramatists. I select a few quotations. 
The first is from the beginning of Vanity Fair : " This almost caused 
Jemima to faint with terror. ' Well, I never,' said she. ' What 
an audacious ' emotion prevented her from completing either 
sentence." Next from one of Hankin's plays. " Mrs. Eversleigh : 
I must say ! (but words fail her)." And finally from Compton 
Mackenzie's Poor Relations : " ' The trouble you must have taken,' 
Hilda exclaimed." These quotations illustrate types of sentences 
which are becoming so frequent that they would seem soon to 
deserve a separate chapter in modern grammars, ' Did you ever ? ' 
* Well, I never ! ' being perhaps the most important of these 
' stop-short ' or ' pull-up ' sentences, as I think they might be 

These sentences are the linguistic symptoms of a peculiarity 
of feminine psychology which has not escaped observation. Mere- 
dith says of one of his heroines : " She thought in blanks, as girls 
do, and some women," and Hardy singularizes one of his by calling 
her " that novelty among women one who finished a thought 
before beginning the sentence which was to convey it." 

The same point is seen in the typical way in which the two 
sexes build up their sentences and periods ; but here, as so often 
in this chapter, we cannot establish absolute differences, but 
only preferences that may be broken in a great many instances 
and yet are characteristic of the sexes as such. If we compare 
long periods as constructed by men and by women, we shall in the 
former find many more instances of intricate or involute structures 
with clause within clause, a relative clause in the middle of a con- 
ditional clause or vice versa, with subordination and sub-subordina- 
tion, while the typical form of long feminine periods is that of 
co-ordination, one sentence or clause being added to another on the 
same plane -vnd the gradation between the respective ideas being 
marked not grammatically, but emotionally, by stress and intona- 
tion, and in writing by underlining. In learned terminology we 
may say that men are fond of hypotaxis and women of parataxis. 

252 THE WOMAN [CH. xm 

Or we may use the simile that a male period is often like a set of 
Chinese boxes, one within another, while a feminine period is like 
a set of pearls joined together on a string of ands and similar words. 
In a Danish comedy a young girl is relating what has happened 
to her at a ball, when she is suddenly interrupted by her brother, 
who has slyly taken out his watch and now exclaims : " I declare ! 
you have said and then fifteen times in less than two and a half 

. General Characteristics. 

The greater rapidity of female thought is shown linguistically, 
among other things, by the frequency with which a woman will use 
a pronoun like he or she, not of the person last mentioned, but 
of somebody else to whom her thoughts have already wandered, 
while a man with his slower intellect will think that she is still 
moving on the same path. The difference in rapidity of perception 
has been tested experimentally by Romanes : the same paragraph 
was presented to various well-educated persons, who were asked 
to read it as rapidly as they could, ten seconds being allowed for 
twenty lines. As soon as the time was up the paragraph was 
removed, and the reader immediately wrote down all that he or 
she could remember of it. It was found that women were usually 
more successful than men in this test. Not only were they able 
to read more quickly than the men, but they were able to give a 
better account of the paragraph as a whole. One lady, for instance, 
could read exactly four times as fast as her husband, and even 
then give a better account than he of that small portion of the 
paragraph he had alone been able to read. But it was found that 
this rapidity was no proof of intellectual power, and some of the 
slowest readers were highly distinguished men. Ellis (Man and W. 
195) explains this in this way : with the quick reader it is as though 
every statement were admitted immediately and without inspection 
to fill the vacant chambers of the mind, while with the slow reader 
every statement undergoes an instinctive process of cross-examina- 
tion ; every new fact seems to stir up the accumulated stores of 
facts among which it intrudes, and so impedes rapidity of mental 

This reminds me of one of Swift's " Thoughts on Various Sub- 
jects " : " The common fluency of speech in many men, and most 
women, is owing to the scarcity of matter, and scarcity of words ; for 
whoever is a master of language, and hath a mind full of ideas, will 
be apt in speaking to hesitate upon the choice of both : whereas 
common speakers have only one set of ideas, and one set of words 
to clothe them in ; and these arc always ready at the mouth. So 


people come faster out of a church when it is almost empty, than 
when a crowd is at the door " (Works, Dublin, 1735, i. 305). 

The volubility of women has been the subject of innumerable 
jests : it has given rise to popular proverbs in many countries, 1 as 
well as to Aurora Leigh's resigned " A woman's function plainly 
is to talk " and Oscar Wilde's sneer, " Women are a decorative 
sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly." 
A woman's thought is no sooner formed than uttered. Says Rosa- 
lind, " Do you not know I am a woman ? when I think, I must 
speak " (As You Like It, m. 2. 264). And in a modern novel a 
young girl says : " I talk so as to find out what I think. Don't 
you ? Some things one can't judge of till one hears them spoken " 
(Housman, John of Jingalo, 346). 

The superior readiness of speech of women is a concomitant 
of the fact that their vocabulary is smaller and more central than 
that of men. But this again is connected with another indubitable 
fact, that women do not reach the same extreme points as men, 
but are nearer the average in most respects. Havelock Ellis, 
who establishes this in various fields, rightly remarks that the 
statement that genius is undeniably of more frequent occurrence 
among men than among women has sometimes been regarded 
by women as a slur upon their sex, but that it does not appear 
that women have been equally anxious to find fallacies in the 
statement that idiocy is more common among men. Yet the 
two statements must be taken together. Genius is more common 
among men by virtue of the same general tendency by which idiocy 
is more common among men. The two facts are but two aspects 
of a larger zoological fact the greater variability of the male 
(Man and W. 420). 

In language we see this very clearly : the highest linguistic 
genius and the lowest degree of linguistic imbecility are very 
rarely found among women. The greatest orators, the most 
famous literary artists, have been men ; but it may serve as a 
sort of consolation to the other sex that there are a much greater 
number of men than of women who cannot put two words together 
intelligibly, who stutter and stammer and hesitate, and are unable 
to find suitable expressions for the simplest thought. Between 
these two extremes the woman moves with a sure and supple tongue 
which is ever ready to find words and to pronounce them in a clear 
and intelligible manner. 

1 "Oil femme y a, silence n'y a." "Deux iemmes font un plaid, troia 
un grand caquet, quatre un plein marcheV' " Due donne e un' oca fanno 
una fiera " (Venice). " The tongue is the sword of a woman, and she 
never lets it become rusty" (China). "The North Sea will sooner be found 
wanting in water than a woman at a loss for a word" (Jutland). 

254 THE WOMAN [en. xin 

Nor are the reasons far to seek why such differences snould have 
developed. They are mainly dependent on the division of labour 
enjoined in primitive tribes and to a great extent also among more 
civilized peoples. For thousands of years the work that especially 
fell to men was such as demanded an intense display of energy 
for a comparatively short period, mainly in war and in hunting. 
Here, however, there was not much occasion to talk, nay, in many 
circumstances talk might even be fraught with danger. And when 
that rough work was over, the man would either sleep or idle his 
time away, inert and torpid, more or less in silence. Woman 
on the other hand, had a number of domestic occupations which 
did not claim such an enormous output of spasmodic energy. To 
her was at first left not only agriculture, and a great deal of other 
work which in more peaceful times was taken over by men ; but 
also much that has been till quite recently her almost exclusive 
concern the care of the children, cooking, brewing, baking, sewing, 
washing, etc., things which for the most part demanded no deep 
thought, which were performed in company and could well be 
accompanied with a lively chatter. Lingering effects of this state 
of things are seen still, though great social changes are going on 
in our times which may eventually modify even the linguistic 
relations of the two sexes, 


1. Anatomy. 2. Geography. 3. National Psychology. 4. Speed of 
Utterance. 5. Periods of Rapid Change. 6. The Ease Theory. 
7. Sounds in Connected Speech. 8. Extreme Weakenings. 9. The 
Principle of Value. 10. Application to Case System, etc. 11. Stress 
Phenomena. 12. Non -phonetic Changes. 

XIV. 1. Anatomy. 

Iff accordance with the programme laid down in the opening 
paragraph of Book III, we shall now deal in detail with those 
linguistic changes which are not due to transference to new 
individuals. The chapter on woman's language has served as 
a kind of bridge between the two main divisions, in so far as the 
first sections treated of those women's dialects which were, or 
were supposed to be, due to the influence of foreigners. 

Many theories have been advanced to explain the indubitable 
fact that languages change in course of time. Some scholars 
have thought that there ought to be one fundamental cause 
working in all instances, while others, more sensibly, have 
maintained that a variety of causes have been and are at work, 
and that it is not easy to determine which of them has been 
decisive in each observed case of change. The greatest attention 
has been given to phonetic change, and in reading some theorists 
one might almost fancy that sounds were the only thing change- 
able, or at any rate that phonetic changes were the only ones in 
language which had to be accounted for. Let us now examine 
some of the theories advanced. 

Sometimes it is asserted that sound changes must have their 
cause in changes in the anatomical structure of the articulating 
organs. This theory, however, need not detain us long (see the 
able discussion in Oertel, p. 194 ft.), for no facts have been 
alleged to support it, and one does not see why small anatomical 
variations should cause changes so long as any teacher of 
languages on the phonetic method is able to teach his Jupils 
practically every speech sound, even those that their own native 
language has been without for centuries. Besides, many phonetic 
changes do not at all lead to new sounds being developed or old 


ones lost, but simply to the old sounds being used in new places 
or disused in some of the places where they were formerly found. 
Some tribes have a custom of mutilating their lips or teeth, 
and that of course must have caused changes in their pro- 
nunciation, which are said to have persisted even after the 
custom was given up. Thus, according to Meinhof (MSA 
60) the Yao women insert a big wooden disk within the upper 
lip, which makes it impossible for them to pronounce [f], and 
as it is the women that teach their children to speak, the sound 
of [f] has disappeared from the language, though now it is 
beginning to reappear in loan-words. It is clear, however, that 
such customs can have exercised only the very slightest influence 
on language in general. 

XIV. 2. Geography. 

Some scholars have believed in an influence exercised by climatic 
or geographical conditions on the character of the sound system, 
instancing as evidence the harsh consonants found in the languages 
of the Caucasus as contrasted with the pleasanter sounds heard 
in regions more favoured by nature. But this influence cannot 
be established as a general rule. " The aboriginal inhabitants 
of the north-west coast of America found subsistence relatively 
easy in a country abounding in many forms of edible marine life ; 
nor can they be said to have been subjected to rigorous climatic 
conditions ; yet in phonetic harshness their languages rival those 
of the Caucasus. On the other hand, perhaps no people has 
ever been subjected to a more forbidding physical environment 
than the Eskimos, yet the Eskimo language not only impresses 
one as possessed of a relatively agreeable phonetic system when 
compared with the languages of the north-west coast, but may even 
be thought to compare favourably with American Indian languages 
generally " (Sapir, American Anthropologist, XIV (1912), 234). 
It would also on this theory be difficult to account for the 
very considerable linguistic changes which have taken place in 
historical times in many countries whose climate, etc., .cannot 
during the same period have changed correspondingly. 

A geographical theory of sound-shifting was advanced by 
Heinrich Meyer-Benfey in Zeitschr. f. deutsches Altcrt. 45 (1901), 
and has recently been taken up by H. Collitz in Amer. Journal 
of Philol. 39 (1918), p. 413. Consonant shifting is chiefly found 
in mountain regions ; this is most obvious in the High German 
shift, which started from the Alpine district of Southern Germany. 
After leaving the region of the high mountains it gradually 
decreases in strength ; yet it keeps on extending, with steadily 


diminishing energy, over part of the area of the Franconian dialects. 
But having reached the plains of Northern Germany, the movement 
stops. The same theory applies to languages in which a similar 
shifting is found, e.g. Old and Modern Armenian, the Soho lan- 
guage in South Africa, etc. " However strange it may appear 
at the first glance," says Collitz, " that certain consonant changes 
should depend on geographical surroundings, the connexion is 
easily understood. The change of media to tenuis and that of 
tenuis to affricate or aspirate are linked together by a common 
feature, viz. an increase in the intensity of expiration. As the 
common cause of both these shiftings we may therefore regard 
a change in the manner in which breath is used for pronunciation. 
The habitual use of a larger volume of breath means an increased 
activity of the lungs. Here we have reached the point where 
the connexion with geographical or climatic conditions is clear, 
because nobody will deny that residence in the mountains, especially 
in the high mountains, stimulates the lungs." 

When this theory was first brought to my notice, I wrote a 
short footnote on it (PhG 176), in which I treated it with perhaps 
too little respect, merely mentioning the fact that my countrymen, 
the Danes, in their flat country were developing exactly the same 
shift as the High Germans (making p, t, k into strongly aspirated 
or affricated sounds and unvoicing 6, d, g) ; I then asked ironically 
whether that might be a consequence of the indubitable fact that 
an increasing number of Danes every summer go to Switzerland 
and Norway for their holidays. And even now, after the theory 
has been endorsed by so able an advocate as Collitz, I fail to 
see how it can hold water. The induction seems faulty on both 
sides, for the shift is found among peoples living in plains, and 
on the other hand it is not shared by all mountain peoples for 
example, not by the Italian and Ladin speaking neighbours of 
the High Germans in the Alps. Besides, the physiological explana- 
tion is not impeccable, for walking in the mountains affects the 
way in which we breathe, that is, it primarily affects the lungs, 
but the change in the consonants is primarily one not in the lungs, 
but in the glottis ; as the connexion between these two things 
is not necessary, the whole reasoning is far from being cogent. 
At any rate, the theory can only with great difficulty be applied 
to the first Gothonic shift, for how do we know that that started 
in mountainous regions ? and who knows whether the sounds 
actually found as /, Tp and h for original p, t, k, had first been 
aspirated and affricated stops ? It seems much more probable 
that the transition was a direct one, through slackening and opening 
of the stoppage, but in that case it has nothing to do with the 
lungs or way of breathing. 



XIV. 3. National Psychology. 

We are much more likely to ' burn,' as the children say, when, 
instead of looking for the cause in such outward circumstances, we 
try to find it in the psychology of those who initiate the change. 
But this does not amount to endorsing all the explanations of 
this kind which have found favour with linguists. Thus, since 
the times of Grimm it has been usual to ascribe the well-known 
consonant shift to psychological traits believed to be characteristic 
of the Germans. Grimm says that the sound shift is a consequence 
of the progressive tendency and desire of liberty found in the 
Germans (GDS 292) ; it is due to their courage and pride in 
the period of the great migration of tribes (ib. 306) : " When 
quiet and morality returned, the sounds remained, and it may 
be reckoned as evidence of the superior gentleness and modera- 
tion of the Gothic, Saxon and Scandinavian tribes that they 
contented themselves with the first shift, while the wilder force 
of the High Germans was impelled to the second shift." (Thus 
also Westphal.) Curtius finds energy and juvenile vigour in 
the Germanic sound shift (KZ 2. 331, 1852). Mullenhof saw in 
the transition from p, t, k to /, >, h a sign of weakening, the 
Germans having apparently lost the power of pronouncing the 
hard stops ; while further, the giving up of the aspirated ph, ih, Teh, 
bh, dh, gh was due to enervation or indolence. But the succeeding 
transition from the old b, d, g to p, t, k showed that they had 
afterwards pulled themselves together to new exertions, and 
the regularity with which all these changes were carried through 
evidenced a great steadiness and persevering force (Deutsche, Alter- 
tumsk. 3. 197). His disciple Wilhelm Scherer saw in the whole 
history of the German language alternating periods of rise and 
decline in popular taste ; he looked upon sound changes from 
the aesthetic point of view and ascribed the (second) consonant 
shift to a feminine period in which consonants were neglected 
because the nation took pleasure in vocalic sounds. 

XIV. 4. Speed of Utterance. 

Wundt gives a different though somewhat related explanation 
of the Germanic shift as due to a " revolution in culture, as 
the subjugation of a native population through warlike immi- 
grants, with resulting new organization of the State " (S 1. 424): 
this increased the speed of utterance, and he tries in detail to 
show that increased speed leads naturally to just those changes 
in consonants which are found in the Gothonic shift (1. 420 ff.). 
But even if we admit that the average speed of talking (tempo 


der rede) is now probably greater than formerly, the whole theory 
is built up on so many doubtful or even manifestly incorrect 
details both in linguistic history and in general phonetic theory 
that it cannot be accepted. It does not account for the actual 
facts of the consonant shifts ; moreover, it is difficult to see why 
such phenomena as this shift, if they were dependent on the speed 
of utterance, should occur only at these particular historical times 
and within comparatively narrow geographical limits, for there 
is much to be said for the view that in all periods the speech 
of the Western nations has been constantly gaining in rapidity 
as life in general has become accelerated, and in no period prob- 
ably more than during the last century, which has witnessed no 
radical consonant shift in any of the leading civilized nations. 

XIV. 5. Periods of Rapid Change. 

All these theories, different though they are in detail, have 

this in common, that they endeavour to explain one particular 

change, or set of changes, from one particular psychological trait 

supposed to be prevalent at the time when the change took place, 

but they fail because we are not able scientifically to demonstrate 

any intimate connexion between the pronunciation of particular 

sounds and a certain state of mind, and also because our knowledge 

of the fluctuations of collective psychology is still so very imperfect. 

But it is interesting to contrast these theories with the explanation 

of the very same sound shifts mentioned in a previous chapter 

(XI), and there shown to be equally unsatisfactory, the explanation, 

namely, that the fundamental cause of the consonant shift is to 

be found in the peculiar pronunciation of an aboriginal population. 

In both cases the Gothonic shifts are singled out, because since 

the time of Grimm the attention of scholars has been focused 

on these changes more than on any others they are looked upon 

as changes &ui generis, and therefore requiring a special explanation, 

such as is not thought necessary in the case of the innumerable 

minor changes that fill most of the pages of the phonological 

section of any historical grammar. But the sober truth seems 

to be that these shifts are not different in kind from those that 

have made, say, FT. seve, frere, chien, del, faire, changer out of 

Lat. sapa, fratrem, canem, kcelum, fakere, cambiare, etc., or those 

that have changed the English vowels in fate, feet, fight, foot, out 

from what they were when the letters which denote them still 

had their 'continental' values. Our main endeavour, therefore, 

must be to find out general reasons why sounds should not 

always remain unchanged. This seems more important, at any 

rate as a preliminary investigation, than attempting offhand 


to assign particular reasons why in such and such a century 
this or that sound was changed in some particular way. 

If, however, we find a particular period especially fertile in 
linguistic changes (phonetic, morphological, semantic, or all at 
once), it is quite natural that we should turn our attention to 
the social state of the community at that time in order, if possible, 
to discover some specially favouring circumstances. I am thinking 
especially of two kinds of condition which may operate. In the 
first place, the influence of parents, and grown-up people generally, 
may be less than usual, because an unusual number of parents 
may be away from home, as in great wars of long duration, 
or may have been killed off, as in the great plagues ; cf . also what 
was said above of children left to shift for themselves in certain 
favoured regions of North America (Ch. X 7). Secondly, there 
may be periods in which the ordinary restraints on linguistic 
change make themselves less felt than usual, because the whole 
community is animated by a strong feeling of independence and 
wants to break loose from social ties of many kinds, including 
those of a powerful school organization or literary tradition. 
This probably was the case with North America in the latter 
half of the eighteenth century, when the new nation wished to 
manifest its independence of old England and therefore, among 
other things, was inclined to throw overboard that respect for 
linguistic authority which under normal conditions makes for 
conservatism. If the divergence between American and British 
English is not greater than it actually is, this is probably due 
partly to the continual influx of immigrants from the old country, 
and partly to that increased facility of communication between 
the two countries in recent times which has made mutual lin- 
guistic influence possible to an extent formerly undreamt-of. 
But in the case of the Romanic languages both of the conditions 
mentioned were operating : during the centuries in which they 
were framed and underwent the strongest differentiation, wars with 
the intruding ' barbarians ' and a series of destructive plagues 
kept away or killed a great many grown-up people, and at the 
same time each country released itself from the centralizing in- 
fluence of Rome, which in the first centuries of the Christian era 
had been very powerful in keeping up a fairly uniform and con- 
servative pronunciation and phraseology throughout the whole 
Empire. 1 There were thus at that time various forces at work 
which, taken together, are quite sufficient to explain the wide 

1 The uniformity in the speech of the whole Roman Empire during the 
first centuries of our Christian era was kept up, among other things, through 
the habit of removing soldiers and officials from one country to the other. 
This ceased later, each district being left to shift more or less for itself. 


divergence in linguistic structure that separated French, Provencal, 
Spanish, etc., from classical Latin (cf. above, XI 8, p. 206). 

In the history of English, one of the periods most fertile in 
change is the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries : the wars with 
France, the Black Death (which is said to have killed off about 
one-third of the population) and similar pestilences, insurrections 
like those of Wat Tyler and Jack Cade, civil wars like those of 
the Roses, decimated the men and made home-life difficult and 
unsettled. In the Scandinavian languages the Viking age is prob- 
ably the period that witnessed the greatest linguistic changes 
if I am right, not, as has sometimes been said, on account of 
the heroic character of the period and the violent rise in self- 
respect or self-assertion, but for the more prosaic reason that 
the men were absent and the women had other things to attend 
to than their children's linguistic education. I am also inclined 
to think that the unparalleled rapidity with which, during the 
last hundred years, the vulgar speech of English cities has been 
differentiated from the language of the educated classes (nearly 
all long vowels being shifted, etc.) finds its natural explanation 
in the unexampled misery of child-life among industrial workers 
in the first half of the last century one of the most disgraceful 
blots on our overpraised civilization. 

XIV. 6. The Ease Theory. 

If we now turn to the actuating principles that determine 
the general changeability of human speech habits, we shall find 
that the moving power everywhere is an impetus starting from 
the individual, and that there is a curbing power in the mere fact 
that language exists not for the individual alone, but for the 
whole community. The whole history of language is, as it were, 
a tug-of-war between these two principles, each of which gains 
victories in turn. 

First of all we must make up our minds with regard to the 
disputed question whether the changes of language go in the 
direction of greater ease, in other words, whether they manifest 
a tendency towards economy of effort. The prevalent opinion 
among the older school was that the chief tendency was, in 
Whitney's words, " to make things easy to our organs of speech, 
to economize time and effort in the work of expression " (L 28). 
Curtius very emphatically states that " Bequemlichkeit ist und 
bleibt der hauptanlass des lautwandels unter alien umstanden " 
(Oriech. etym. 23 ; cf. C 7). But Leskien, Sievers, and since them 
other recent writers, hold the opposite view (see quotations and 
summaries in Oertel 204 f., Wechssler L 88 f.), and their view haa 


prevailed to the extent that Sutterlin (WW 33) characterizes 
the old view as " empty talk," " a wrong scent," and " worthless 
subterfuges now rejected by our science." 

Such strong words may, however, be out of place, for is it so very 
foolish to think that men in this, as in all other respects, tend to 
follow ' the line of least resistance ' and to get off with as little 
exertion as possible ? The question ic only whether this universal 
tendency can be shown to prevail in those phonetic changes which 
are dealt with in linguistic history. 

Sutterlin thinks it enough to mention some sound changes in 
which the new sound is more difficult than the old ; these being 
admitted, he concludes (and others have said the same thing) 
that those other instances in which the new sound is evidently 
easier than the old one cannot be explained by the principle of ease. 
But it seems clear that this conclusion is not valid : the correct 
inference can only be that the tendency towards ease may be 
at work in some cases, though not in all, because there are other 
forces which may at times neutralize it or prove stronger than 
it. We shall meet a similar all-or-nothing fallacy in the chapter 
on Sound Symbolism. 

Now, it is sometimes said that natives do not feel any difficulty 
in the sounds of their own language, however difficult these may 
be to foreigners. This is quite true if we speak of a conscious 
perception of this or that sound being difficult to produce ; but 
it is no less true that the act of speaking always requires some 
exertion, muscular as well as psychical, on the part of the speaker, 
and that he is therefore apt on many occasions to speak with 
as little effort as possible, often with the result that his voice is 
not loud enough, or that his words become indistinct if he does 
not move his tongue, lips, etc., with the required precision or 
force. You may as well say that when once one has learnt the art 
of writing, it is no longer any effort to form one's letters properly ; 
and yet how many written communications do we not receive 
in which many of the letters are formed so badly that we can 
do little but guess from the context what each form is meant for ! 
There can be no doubt that the main direction of change in the 
development of our written alphabet has been towards forms 
requiring less and less exertion and similar causes have led to 
analogous results in the development of spoken sounds. 

It is not always easy to decide which of two articulations is 
the easier one, and opinions may in some instances differ we may 
also find in two neighbouring nations opposite phonetic develop- 
ments, each of which may perhaps be asserted by speakers of the 
language to be in the direction of greater ease. " To judge of 
the difficulty of muscular activity, the muscular quantity at play 


cannot serve s an absolute measure. Is [d] absolutely more 
awkward to produce than [3] ? When a man is running full tilt, 
it is under certain circumstances easier for him to rush against 
the wall than to stop suddenly at some distance from it : when 
the tongue is in motion, it may be easier for it to thrust itself 
against the roof of the mouth or the teeth, i.e. to form a stop (a 
plosive), than to halt at a millimetre's distance, i.e. to form a 
fricative " (Verner 78). In the same sense I wrote in 1904 : " Many 
an articulation which obviously requires greater muscular move- 
ments is yet easier of execution than another in which the 
movement is less, but has to be carried out with greater precision : 
it requires less effort to chip wood than to operate for cataract " 
(PhG 181). 

In other cases, however, no such doubt is possible : [s], [f] or 
[x] require more muscular exertion than [h], and a replacement 
of one of them by [h] therefore necessarily means a lessening of 
effort. Now, I am firmly convinced that whenever a phonologist 
finds one of these oral fricatives standing regularly in one language 
against [h] in another, he will at once take the former sound to 
be the original and [h] to be the derived sound : an indisputable 
indication that the instinctive feeling of all linguists is still in 
favour of the view that a movement towards the easier sound 
is the rule, and not the exception. 

In thus taking up the cudgels for the ease theory I am not 
afraid of hearing the objection that I ascribe too great power 
to human laziness, indolence, inertia, shirking, easygoingness, 
sloth, sluggishness, lack of energy, or whatever other beautiful 
synonyms have been invented for ' economy of effort ' or 
' following the line of least resistance.' The fact remains that 
there is such a ' tendency ' in all human beings, and by taking it 
into account in explaining changes of sound we are doing nothing 
else than applying here the same principle that attributes many 
simplifications of form to ' analogy ' : we see the same psycho- 
logical force at work in the two different domains of phonetics and 

It is, of course, no serious objection to this view that if this 
had been always the direction of change, speaking must have 
been uncommonly troublesome to our earliest ancestors l who 
Bays it wasn't ? or that " if certain combinations were really 
irksome in themselves, why should they have been attempted 
at all ; why should they often have been maintained so long ? " 
(Oertel 204) as if people at a remote age had been able to compare 
consciously two articulations and to choose the easier one ! 

' " Dass unsere altesten vorfahren rich das sprechen erstaunlich unbequem 
gemacht haben," Delbruck, E 155. 


Neither in language nor in any other activity has mankind at once 
hit upon the best or easiest expedients. 

XIV. 7. Sounds in Connected Speech. 

In the great majority of linguistic changes we have to consider 
the ease or difficulty, not of the isolated sound, but of the sound 
in that particular conjunction with other sounds in which it occurs 
in words. 1 Thus in the numerous phenomena comprised under 
the name of assimilation. There is an interesting account in the 
Proceedings of the Philological Society (December 17, 1886) of a 
discussion of these problems, in which Sweet, while maintaining 
that " cases of saving of effort were very rare or non-existent " 
and that " all the ordinary sounds of language were about on a 
par as to difficulty of production," said that assimilation " sprang 
from the desire to save space in articulation and secure ease of 
transition. Thus pn became pm, or else mn." But in both these 
changes there is saving of effort, for in the former the movement 
of the tip of the tongue required for [n], and in the latter the move- 
ment of the soft palate required for [p], is done away with 2 : 
the term " saving of space " can have no other meaning than 
economy of muscular energy. And the same is true of what 
Sweet terms " saving of time," which he finds effected by dropping 
superfluous sounds, especially at the end of words, e.g. [g] after 
[ ] in E. sing. Here, of course, one articulation (of the velum) 
is saved and this need not even be accompanied by the saving 
of any time, for in such cases the remaining sound is often lengthened 
so as to make up for the loss. 8 

If, then, all assimilations are to be counted as instances of 
saving of effort, it is worth noting that a great many phonetic 

1 Sometimes appearances may be deceptive . when [nr, mr] become 
[ndr, mbr], it looks on the paper as if something had been added and as 
if the transition therefore militated against the principle of ease : in reality, 
the old and the new combinations require exactly the same amount of 
muscular activity, and the change simply consists in want of precision in 
the movement of the velum palati, which comes a fraction of a second too 
soon. If anything, the new group is a trifle easier than the old. See LPh 
5. 6 for explanation and examples (E. thunder from ]>unor sb., ]>unrian vb. ; 
timber, cf. Goth, timrian, G. zimmer, etc.). 

* This is rendered most clear by my ' analphabetic ' notation (a means 
lips, fi tip of tongue, S soft palate, velum palati, and e glottis ; stands 
for closed position, 1 for approximation, 3 for open position) ; the three 
sound combinations are thus analysed (cf. my Lehrbuch der Phonetik) : 



13 3 
e 3 

n p 



1 3 

m m 

3 3 
3 3 

1 1 

* The only clear cases of saving of time are those in which long sounds 
tire shortened, and even they must be looked upon as a saving of effort. 


changes which are not always given under the heading of assimila- 
tion should really be looked upon as such. If Lat. saponem yields 
FT. sawn, this is the result of a whole series of assimilations : first 
[p] becomes [b], because the vocal vibrations continue from the 
vowel before to the vowel after the consonant, the opening of 
the glottis being thus saved ; then the transition of [b] to [v] 
between vowels may be considered a partial assimilation to the 
open lip position of the vowels ; the vowel [o] is nasalized in conse- 
quence of an assimilation to the nasal [n] (anticipation of the low 
position of the velum), and the subsequent dropping of the conso- 
nant [n] is a clear case of a different kind of assimilation (saving 
of a tip movement) ; at an early stage the two final sounds of 
saponem had disappeared, first [m] and later the indistinct vowel 
resulting from e : whether we reckon these disappearances as 
assimilations or not, at any rate they constitute a saving of effort. 
All droppings of sounds, whether consonants (as t in E. castle, post- 
man, etc.) or vowels (as in E. p'rfiaps, business, etc.), are to be 
viewed in the same light, and thus by their enormous number in 
the history of all languages form a strong argument in favour of 
the ease theory. 

There is one more thing to be considered which is generally 
overlooked. In such assimilations as It. otto, sette, from octo, 
aeptem, a greater ease is effected not only by the assimilation as 
such, by which one of the consonants is dropped for that would 
have been obtained just as well if the result had been occo, seppe 
but also by the fact that it is the tip action which has been re- 
tained in both cases, for the tip of the tongue is much more flexible 
and more easily moved than either the lips or the back of the tongue. 
On the whole, many sound changes show how the tip is favoured 
at the cost of other organs, thus in the frequent transition of 
final -m to -n, found, for instance, in old Gothonic, in Middle 
English, in ancient Greek, in Balto-Slavic, in Finnish and in 

In the discussion referred to above Sweet was seconded by 
Lecky, who said that " assimilations vastly multiplied the number 
of elementary sounds in a language, and therefore could not be 
described as facilitating pronunciation." This is a great exaggera- 
tion, for in the vast majority of instances assimilation introduces 
no new sounds at all (see, for instance, the lists in my LPh ch. xi. ). 
Lecky was probably thinking of such instances as when [k, g] 
before front vowels become [t/, d$] or similar combinations, or 
when mutation caused by [i] changes [u, o] into [y, 0], which sounds 
were not previously found in the language. Here we might perhaps 
say that those individuals who for the sake of their own ease 
introduced new sounds made things more difficult for coming 


generations (though even that is not quite certain), and the 
case would then be analogous to that of a man who has learnt 
a foreign expression for a new idea and then introduces it into 
his own language, thus burdening his countrymen with a new 
word instead of thinking how the same idea might have been 
rendered by means of native speech- material in both cases a 
momentary alleviation is obtained at the cost of a permanent 
disadvantage, but neither case can be alleged against the view 
that the prevalent tendency among human beings is to prefer 
the easiest and shortest cut. 

XIV. 8. Extreme Weakenings. 

When this lazy tendency is indulged to the full, the result 
is an indistinct protracted vocal murmur, with here and there 
possibly one or other sound (most often an s) rising to the surface : 
think, for instance, of the way in which we often hear grace said, 
prayers mumbled and other similar formulas muttered inarticulately, 
with half-closed lips and the least possible movement of the rest 
of the vocal organs. This is tolerated more or less in cases in 
which the utterance is hardly meant as a communication to any 
human being ; otherwise it will generally be met with a request 
to repeat what has been said, the social curb being thus applied 
to the easygoing tendencies of the individual. Now, as a matter 
of fact, there are in every language a certain number of word- 
forms that can only be explained by this very laziness in pro- 
nouncing, which in extreme cases leads to complete unintelligibility. 

Russian sudar' (gosudar'), ' sir,' is colloquially shortened into a 
mere s, which may in subservient speech be added to almost any 
word as a meaningless enclitic. And curiously enough the same 
sound is used in exactly the same way in conversational Spanish, 
as buenos for bueno ' good,' only here it is a weakening of senor 
(Hanssen, Span, gramm. 60) : thus two entirely different words, 
from identical psychological motives, yield the same result in 
two distant countries. Fr. monsieur, instead of [m5sjo3T], a 
might be expected, sounds [mosj0] and extremely frequently 
[msj0] and even [psj0], with a transition not otherwise found in 
French. Madame before a name is very often shortened into 
[mam] ; in English the same word becomes a single sound in 
yes'm. The weakening of mistress into miss and the old-fashioned 
mas for master also belong here, as do It. forms for signore, signora : 
gnor si, gnor no, gnora si, sor Luigi, la sora sposa, and Sp. usted 
* you ' for vuestra merced. Formulas of greeting and of politeness 
are liable to similar truncations, e.g. E. how d(e) do, Dan. [gda'J or 
even [da'j for goddag, G. [gmSin, gm5] for guten morgen, [na'mt] 


for guten abend ; FT. s'il vous plait often becomes [siuple, sple], 
and the synonymous Dan. veer sd god is shortened into veer ago, of 
which often only [sgo'J remains. In Russian popular speech some 
small words are frequently inserted as a vague indication that 
the utterance or idea belongs to some one else : grin, grit, grim, 
gril, various mutilated forms of the verb govorit' ' say,' mol from 
molvit' ' speak,' de from dejati (Boyer et Speranski, Manuel 293 ff.) ; 
cp. the obsolete E. co, quo, for quoth. In all the Balkan languages 
a particle vre is extensively used, which Hatzidakis has explained 
from the vocative of OGr. mor6s. Modern Gr. tha is now a particle 
of futurity, but originates in thend, from thelei, ' he will ' + no from 
kina, ' that.' These examples must suffice to show that we have 
here to do with a universal tendency in all languages. 

XIV. 9. The Principle of Value. 

To explain such deviations from normal phonetic development 
some scholars have assumed that a word or form in frequent use 
is liable to suffer exceptional treatment. Thus Vilhelm Thomsen, 
in his brilliant paper (1879) on the Romanic verb andare, andar, 
anar, otter, which he explains convincingly from Lat. ambulare, 
says that this verb " belongs to a group of words which in all 
languages stand as it were without the pale of the laws, that is, 
words which from their frequent employment are exposed to 
far more violent changes than other words, and therefore to some 
extent follow paths of their own." l Schuchardt (Ueber die lautge- 
setze, 1885) turned upon the ' young grammarians,' Paul among 
the rest, who did not recognize this principle, and said that one 
word (or one sound) may need 10,000 repetitions in order to be 
changed into another one, and that consequently another word, 
which in the same time is used only 8,000 times, must be behindhand 
in its phonetic development. Quite apart from the fact that 
this number is evidently too small (for a moderately loquacious 
woman will easily pronounce such a word as he half a dozen times 
as often as these figures every year), it is obvious that the reasoning 
must be wrong, for were frequency the only decisive factor, G. 
morgen would have been treated in every other connexion exactly 
as it is in guten morgen, and that is just what has not happened. 
Frequency of repetition would in itself tend to render the habitude 
firmly rooted, thus really capable of resisting change, rather than 
the opposite ; and instead of the purely mechanical explanation 
from the number of times a word is repeated, we must look for 

1 In the reprint in Samlede Afhandlingtr, ii. 417 (1920), a few lines are 
added in which Thomsen fully accepts the explanation which I gave as far 
back aa 1886. 


a more psychological explanation. This naturally must be found 
in the ease with which a word is understood in the given connexion 
or situation, and especially in its worthlessness for the purpose 
of communication. Worthlessness, however, is not the moving 
power, but merely the reason why less restraint than usual is 
imposed on the ever-present inclination of speakers to minimize 
effort. A parallel from another, though cognate, sphere of human 
activity may perhaps bring out my point of view more clearly. 
The taking off of one's hat, combined with a low bow, served from 
the first to mark a more or less servile submissiveness to a prince 
or conqueror ; then the gesture was gradually weakened, and a 
slight raising of the hat came to be a polite greeting even between 
equals ; this is reduced to a mere touching of the hat or cap, 
and among friends the slightest movement of the hand in the 
direction of the hat is thought a sufficient greeting. When, how- 
ever, it is important to indicate deference, the full ceremonial 
gesture is still used (though not to the same extent by all nations) ; 
otherwise no value is attached to it, and the inclination to spare 
oneself all unnecessary exertion has caused it to dwindle down 
to the slightest muscular action possible. 

The above instances of the truncation of everyday formulas, 
etc., illustrate the length to which the ease principle can be carried 
when a word has little significatory value and the intention of 
the speaker can therefore be vaguely, but sufficiently, understood 
if the proper sound is merely suggested or hinted at. But in most 
words, and even in the words mentioned above, when they are to 
bear their full meaning, the pronunciation cannot be slurred to the 
same extent, if the speaker is to make himself understood. It is con- 
sequently his interest to pronounce more carefully, and this means 
greater conservatism and slower phonetic development on the whole. 

There are naturally many degrees of relative value or worth- 
lessness, and words may vary accordingly. An illustration may 
be taken from my own mother-tongue : the two words rigtig nok, 
literally ' correct enough,' are pronounced ['recti 'nok] or ['regdi 'nok] 
when keeping their full signification, but when they are reduced 
to an adverb with the same import as the weakened English 
certainly or (it is) true (that), there are various shortened pronun- 
ciations in frequent use : ['rectnog, 'regdnog, 'regnog, 'renog, 'renag]. 
The worthlessness may affect a whole phrase, a word, or merely 
one syllable or sound. 

XIV. 10. Application to Case System, etc. 

Our principle is important in many domains of linguistic 
history. If it is asked why the elaborate Old English system of 


cases and genders has gradually disappeared, an answer that will 
meet with the approval of most linguists of the ordinary school is 
(in the words of J. A. H. Murray) : " The total loss of grammatical 
gender in English, and the almost complete disappearance of cases, 
are purely phonetic phenomena " supplemented, of course, by 
the recognition of the action of analogy, to which is due, for instance, 
the levelling of the nom. and dative plural OE. stanas and stanum 
under the single form stones. The main explanation thus is the 
following : a phonetic law, operating without regard to the signi- 
fication, caused the OE. unstressed vowels -a, -e, -u to become 
merged in an obscure - in Middle English ; as these endings were 
very often distinctive of cases, the Old English cases were con- 
sequently lost. Another phonetic law was operating similarly 
by causing the loss of final -n, which also played an important 
role in the old case system. And in this way phonetic laws and 
analogy have between them made a clean sweep of it, and we need 
look nowhere else for an explanation of the decay of the old 

Here I beg to differ : a ' phonetic law ' is not an explanation, 
but something to be explained ; it is nothing else but a mere 
statement of facts, a formula of correspondence, which says nothing 
about the cause of change, and we are therefore justified if we 
try to dig deeper and penetrate to the real psychology of speech. 
Now, let us for a moment suppose that each of the terminations 
-a, -e, -u bore in Old English its own distinctive and sharply 
defined meaning, which was necessary to the right understanding 
of the sentences in which the terminations occurred (something 
like the endings found in artificial languages like Ido). Would 
there in that case be any probability that a phonetic law tending 
to their levelling could ever have succeeded in establishing itself ? 
Most certainly not ; the all-important regard for intelligibility 
would have been sure to counteract any inclination towards a slurred 
pronunciation of the endings. Nor would there have been any 
occasion for new formations by analogy, as the formations were 
already sufficiently analogous. But such a regularity was very 
far from prevailing in Old English, as will be particularly clear 
from the tabulation of the declensions as printed in my Chapters 
on English, p. 10 ff. : it makes the whole question of causality appear 
in a much clearer light than would be possible by any other 
arrangement of the grammatical facts : the cause of the decay 
of the Old English apparatus of declensions lay in its manifold 
incongruities. The same termination did not always denote the 
same thing : -u might be the nom. sg. masc. (sunu) or fern, (duru), 
or the ace. or the dat., or the nom. or ace. pi. neuter (hofu) ; -a 
might be the nom. sg. masc. (guma), or the dat. sg. masc. (suna), 


or the gen. sg. fern, (dura), or the nom. pi. masc. or fern., or 
finally the gen. pi. ; -an might be the ace. or dat. or gen. sg. or 
the nom. or ace. pi., etc. If we look at it from the point of view 
of function, we get the same picture ; the nom. pi., for instance, 
might be denoted by the endings -as, -an, -a, -e, -u, or by mutation 
without ending, or by the unchanged kernel ; the dat. sg. by 
-e, -an, -re, -um, by mutation, or the unchanged kernel. The 
whole is one jumble of inconsistency, for many relations plainly 
distinguished from each other in one class of words were but 
imperfectly, if at all, distinguishable in another class. Add to 
this that the names used above, dative, accusative, etc., have 
no clear and definite meaning in the case of Old English, any 
more than in the case of kindred tongues ; sometimes it did not 
matter which of two or more cases the speaker chose to employ : 
some verbs took indifferently now one, now another case, and 
the same is to some extent true with regard to prepositions. No 
wonder, therefore, that speakers would often hesitate which of 
two vowels to use in the ending, and would tend to indulge in the 
universal inclination to pronounce weak syllables indistinctly 
and thus confuse the formerly distinct vowels a, i, e, u into the 
one neutral vowel [o], which might even be left out without 
detriment to the clear understanding of each sentence. 1 The 
only endings that were capable of withstanding this general rout 
were the two in s, -as for the plural and -es for the gen. sg. ; 
here the consonant was in itself more solid, as it were, than the 
other consonants used in case endings (n, m), and, which is more 
decisive, each of these terminations was confined to a more 
sharply limited sphere of use than the other endings, and the 
functions for which they served, that of the plural and that of 
the genitive, are among the most indispensable ones for clearness 
of thought. Hence we see that these endings from the earliest 
period of the English language tend to be applied to other 
classes of nouns than those to which they were at first confined 
(-as to masc. o stems . . .), so as to be at last used with practically 
all nouns. 

If explanations like Murray's of the simplification of the 
English case system are widely accepted, while views like those 
attempted here will strike most readers of linguistic works as 
unfamiliar, the reason may, partly at any rate, be the usual 
arrangement of historical and other grammars. Here we first 
have chapters on phonology, in which the facts are tabulated, 

1 The above remarks are condensed from the argument in ChE 38 ff. 
Note also what is said below (Ch. XIX 13) on the loss of Lat. final -s in the 
Romanic languages after it had ceased to be necessary for the grammatical 
understanding of sentences. 


each vowel being dealt with separately, no matter what its function 
is in the flexional sj-stem ; then, after all the sounds have been 
treated in this way, we come to morphology (accidence, formenlehre), 
in which it is natural to take the phonological facts as granted 
or already known : these therefore come to be looked upon as 
primary and morphology as secondary, and no attention is 
paid to the value of the sounds for the purposes of mutual under- 

But everyday observations show that sounds have not always 
the same value. In ordinary conversation one may frequently 
notice how a proper name or technical term, when first introduced, 
is pronounced with particular care, while no such pains is taken 
when it recurs afterwards : the stress becomes weaker, the un- 
stressed vowels more indistinct, and this or that consonant may 
be dropped. The same principle is shown in all the abbreviations 
of proper names and of long words in general which have been 
treated above (Ch IX 7) : here the speaker has felt assured 
that his hearer has understood what or who he is talking about, 
as soon as he has pronounced the initial syllable or syllables, 
and therefore does not take the trouble to pronounce the rest of 
the word. It has often been pointed out (see, e.g., Curtius K 72) 
that stem or root syllables are generally better preserved than 
the rest of the word : the reason can only be that they have 
greater importance for the understanding of the idea as a whole 
than other syllables. 1 But it is especially when we come to 
examine stress phenomena that we discover the full extent of 
this principle of value. 

XIV. 11. Stress Phenomena. 

Stress is generally believed to be dependent exclusively on 
the force with which the air -current is expelled from the lungs, 
hence the name of ' expiratory accent ' ; but various observa- 
tions and considerations have led me to give another definition 
(LPh 7. 32, 1913) : stress is energy, intensive muscular activity not 

1 Against this it has been urged that Fr. oncle has not preserved the 
Btem syllable of Lat. avunculua particularly well. But this objection is 
a little misleading. It is quite true that at the time when the word was 
first framed the syllable av- contained the main idea and -unciUtis was only 
added to impart an endearing modification to that idea (' dear little uncle ') ; 
but after some time the semantic relation was altered ; avus itself passed out 
of use, while avunculua was handed down from generation to generation as a 
ready-made whole, in which the ordinary speaker was totally unable to 
suspect that av- was the really significative stem. He consequently treated 
it exactly as any other polysyllable of the same structure, and atnm- 
(phonetically [awuij, auuy]) was naturally made into one syllable. Nothing, 
of course, can be protected by a sense of its significance unless it 13 still 
felt as significant. That hardly needs saying. 


of one organ, but of all the speech organs at once. To pronounce 
a ' stressed ' syllable all organs are exerted to the utmost. The 
muscles of the lungs are strongly innervated ; the movements 
of the vocal chords are stronger, leading on the one hand in 
voiced sounds to a greater approximation of the vocal chords, 
with less air escaping, but greater amplitude of vibrations and 
also greater risings or fallings of the tone. In voiceless sounds, 
on the other hand, the vocal chords are kept at greater distance 
(than in unstressed syllables) and accordingly allow more air to 
escape. In the upper organs stress is characterized by marked 
articulations of the velum palati, of the tongue and of the lips. 
As a result of all this, stressed syllables are loud, i.e. can be heard 
at great distance, and distinct, i.e. easy to perceive in all their 
components. Unstressed syllables, on the contrary, are pro- 
duced with less exertion in every way : in voiced sounds the 
distance between the vocal chords is greater, which leads to the 
peculiar ' voice of murmur ' ; but in voiceless sounds the glottis 
is not opened very wide. In the upper organs we see corresponding 
slack movements ; thus the velum does not shut off the nasal cavity 
very closely, and the tongue tends towards a neutral position, 
in which it moves very little either up and down or backwards 
and forwards. The lips also are moved with less energy, and the 
final result is dull and indistinct sounds. Now, all this is of the 
greatest importance in the history of languages. 

The psychological importance of various elements is the chief, 
though not the only, factor that determines sentence stress (see, for 
instance, the chapters on stress in my LPh xiv. and MEG v.). Now, 
it is well known that sentence stress plays a most important rdle in 
the historical development of any language ; it has determined 
not only the difference in vowel between [woz] and [WQZ], both 
written was, or between the demonstrative [Sset] and the relative 
[Sat], both written that, but also that between one and an or a, 
originally the same word, and between Fr. moi and me, toi and te 
one might give innumerable other instances. Value also plays 
a not unimportant rdle in determining which syllable among 
several in long words is stressed most, and in some languages 
it has revolutionized the whole stress system. This happened with 
old Gothonic, whence in modern German, Scandinavian, and in 
the native elements of English we have the prevalent stressing of 
the root syllable, i.e. of that syllable which has the greatest 
psychological value, as in \wishes, be-speak, etc. 

Now, it is generally said that if double forms arise like one and 
an, moi and me, the reason is that the sounds were found under 
* different phonetic conditions ' and therefore developed differently, 
exactly as the difference between an and a or between Fr. fol 


and fou, is due to the same word being placed in one instance before 
a word beginning with a vowel and in the other before a consonant, 
that is to say, in different external conditions. But it won't do 
to identify the two things : in the latter case we really have some- 
thing external or mechanical, and here we may rightly use 
the expression ' phonetic condition,' but the difference between 
a strongly and a weakly stressed form of the same word depends 
on something internal, on the very soul of the word. Stress is 
not what the usual way of marking it in writing and printing might 
lead us to think something that hangs outside or above the 
word but is at least as important an element of the word as 
the ' speech sounds ' which go to make it up. Stress alternation 
in a sentence cannot consequently be reckoned a ' phonetic 
condition ' of the same order as the initial sound of the next word. 
If we say that the different treatment of the vowel seen in one 
and an or moi and me is occasioned by varying degrees of stress, 
we have ' explained ' the secondary sound change only, but not 
the primary change, which is that of stress itself, and that 
change is due to the different significance of the word under varying 
circumstances, i.e. to its varying value for the purposes of the 
exchange of ideas. Over and above mechanical principles we 
have here and elsewhere psychological principles, which no one 
can disregard with impunity. 

XIV. 12. Non-phonetic Changes. 

Considerations of ease play an important part in all depart- 
ments of language development. It is impossible to draw a sharp 
line between phonetic and syntactic phenomena. We have what 
might be termed prosiopesis when the speaker begins, or thinks 
he begins, to articulate, but produces no audible sound till one 
or two syllables after the beginning of what he intended to say. 
This phonetically is ' aphesis,' but in many cases leads to the 
omission of whole words ; this may become a regular speech habit, 
more particularly in the case of certain set phrases, e.g. (Good) 
morning f (Do you) see ? / (Will) that do ? / (I shall) see you 
again this afternoon ; Fr. (nei)turettement / (Je ne me) rappelle 
plus, etc. 

On the other hand, we have aposiopesis if the speaker does 
not finish his sentence, either because he hesitates which word 
to employ or because he notices that the hearer has already caught 
his meaning. Hence such syntactic shortenings as at Brown's 
(house, or shop, or whatever it may be), which may then be 
extended to other places in the sentence ; the grocer's was closed 
/ St. Paul's is very grand, etc. Similar abbreviations due to 



the natural disinclination to use more circumstantial expressions 
than are necessary to convey one's meaning are seen when, instead 
of my straw hat, one says simply my straw, if it is clear to one's 
hearers that one is talking of a hat ; thus clay conies to be used 
for clay pipe, return for return ticket (' We'd better take returns ') 
the Hay market for the Hay market Theatre, etc. Sometimes these 
shortenings become so common as to be scarcely any longer felt 
as such, e.g. rifle, landau, bugle, for rifle gun, landau carriage, bugle 
horn (further examples MEG ii. 8. 9). In Maupassant (Bel Ami 
81) I find the following scrap of conversation which illustrates 
the same principle in another domain : " Voila six mois que je 
suis employe aux bureaux du chemin de fer du Nord." " Mais 
comment diable n'as-tu pas trouve mieux qu'une place d'employi 
au Nord ? " 1 

The tendency to economize effort also manifests itself when 
the general ending -er is used instead of a more specific expression : 
sleeper for sleeping-car ; bedder at college for bedmaker ; speecher, 
footer, brekker (Harrow) for speech-day, football, breakfast, etc. 
Thus also when some noun or verb of a vague or general meaning 
is used because one will not take the trouble to think of the exact 
expression required, very often thing (sometimes extended thingum- 
bob, cf. Dan. tingest, G. dingsda), Fr. chose, machin (even in place 
of a personal name) ; further, the verb do or fix (this especially 
in America). In some cases this tendency may permanently 
affect the meaning of a common noun which has to serve so 
often instead of a specific name that at last it acquires a special 
signification ; thus, corn in England = ' wheat,' in Ireland = ' oats,' 
in America = ' maize,' deer, orig. ' animal,' Fr. herbe, now ' grass,' 
etc. As many people, either from ignorance or from carelessness, 
are Tar from being precise in thought and expression they " Mean 
not, but blunder round about a meaning " words come to be 
applied in senses unknown to former generations, and some of 
these senses may gradually become fixed and established. In 
some cases the final result of such want of precision may even be 
beneficial ; thus English at first had no means of expressing 
futurity in verbs. Then it became more and more customary 
to say ' he will come,' which at first meant ' he has the will 
to come,' to express his future coming apart from his volition 
thus, also, * it will rain,' etc. Similarly ' I shall go,' which 

1 Compare also the results of the same principle seen in writing. In 
a letter a proper name or technical term when first introduced is probably 
written in full and very distinctly, while afterwards it is either written 
carelessly or indicated by a mere initial. Any shorthand-writer knows 
how to utilize this principle systematically. 


originally meant ' I am obliged to go,' was used in a less 
accurate way, where no obligation was thought of, and thus 
the language acquired something which is at any rate a make- 
shift for a future tense of the verb. But considerations of space 
prevent me from diving too deeply into questions of semantic 


1 Emotional Exaggerations. 2. Euphony. 3. Organic Influences. 
4. Lapses and Blendinga. 5. Latitude of Correctness. 6. Equi- 
distant and Convergent Changes. 7. Homophones. 8. Signifi- 
cative Sounds preserved. 9. Divergent Changes and Analogy. 
10. Extension of Sound Laws. 11. Spreading of Sound Change. 
12. Reaction. 13. Sound Laws and Etymological Science. 14. 

XV. 1. Emotional Exaggerations. 

IN the preceding chapter we have dwelt at great length on those 
changes which tend to render articulations easier and more con- 
venient. But, important as they are, these are not the only changes 
that speech sounds undergo : there are other moods than that 
of ordinary listless everyday conversation, and they may lead to 
modifications of pronunciation which are different from and may 
even be in direct opposition to those mentioned or hinted at above. 
Thus, anger or other violent emotions may cause emphatic utter- 
ance, in which, e.g., stops may be much more strongly aspirated 
than they are in usual quiet parlance ; even French, which has 
normally unaspirated (' sharp ') [t] and [k], under such circum- 
stances may aspirate them strongly ' Mais taisez-vous done ! ' 
Military commands are characterized by peculiar emphasizings, 
even in some cases distortions of sounds and words. Pomposity 
and consequential airs are manifested in the treatment of speech 
sounds as well as in other gestures. Irony, scoffing, banter, 
amiable chaffing each different mood or temper leaves its traces 
on enunciation. Actors and orators will often use stronger articu- 
lations than are strictly necessary to avoid those misunderstand- 
ings or that unintelligibility which may ensue from slipshod or 
indistinct pronunciation. 1 In short, anyone who will take careful 
note of the way in which people do really talk will find in the most 
everyday conversation as well as on more solemn occasions the 
greatest variety of such modifications and deviations from what 
might be termed ' normal ' pronunciation ; these, however, pass 

1 " His pronunciation of some words is so distinct that an idea crossed 
me once that he might be an actor " (Shaw, Caahel Byron's Profession, 66). 



unnoticed under ordinary circumstances, when the attention is 
directed exclusively to the contents and general purport of the 
spoken words. A vowel or a consonant will be made a trifle 
shorter or longer than usual, the lips will open a little too much, 
an [e] will approach [as] or [i], the off-glide after a final [t] will 
sound nearly as [s], the closure of a [d] will be made so loosely 
that a little air will escape and the sound therefore will be approxi- 
mately a [3] or a weak fricative point [r], etc. Most of these 
modifications are so small that they cannot be represented by 
letters, even by those of a very exact phonetic alphabet, but they 
exist all the same, and are by no means insignificant to those who 
want to understand the real essence of speech and of linguistic 
change, for life is built up of such minutiae. The great majority 
of such alterations are of course made quite unconsciously, but 
by the side of these we must recognize that there are some 
individuals who more or less consciously affect a certain mode of 
enunciation, either from artistic motives, because they think it 
beautiful, or simply to ' show off ' and sometimes such pro- 
nunciations may set the fashion and be widely imitated 
(cf. below, p. 292). 

Tender emotions may lead to certain lengthenings of sounds. 
The intensifying effect of lengthening was noticed by A. Gill, 
Milton's teacher, in 1621, see Jiriczek's reprint, p. 48 : "Atque vt 
Hebraei, ad ampliorem vocis alicuius significationem, syllabas 
adaugent [cf . here below, Ch. XX 9] ; sic nos syllabarum tempora : 
vt, grit [the diaeresis denotes vowel-length] magnus, greet ingens ; 
monstrus prodigiosum, monstrus valde prodigiosum, moonstrus 
prodigiosum adeo vt hominem stupidet." Cf. also the lengthening 
in the exclamation God!, by novelists sometimes written Gated 
or Gord. But it is curious that the same emotional lengthening 
will sometimes affect a consonant (or first part of a diphthong) 
in a position in which otherwise we always have a short quantity ; 
thus, Danish clergymen, when speaking with unction, will lengthen 
the [1] of glcede ' joy,' which is ridiculed by comic writers through 
the unphonetic spelling ge-lcede ; and in the same way I find in 
Kipling (Stalky 119) : "We'll make it a be-autiful house," and in 
0. Henry (Roads of Destiny 133) : " A regular Paradise Lost for 
elegance of scenery and be-yooty of geography." I suppose that 
the spellings ber-luddy and bee-luddy, which I find in recent novels, 
are meant to indicate the pronunciation [bl'-Adi], thus the exact 
counterpart of the Danish example. An unstressed vowel before 
the stressed syllable is similarly lengthened in " Dee-lightful 
couple ! " (Shaw, Doctor's Dilemma 41) ; American girl students 
will often say ['di'li/] for delicious. 


XV. 2. Euphony. 

It was not uncommon in the seventeenth and eighteenth cen- 
turies to ascribe phonetic changes to a desire for euphony, a view 
which is represented in Bopp's earliest works. But as early as 
1821 Bredsdorff says that " people will always find that euphonious 
which they are accustomed to hear : considerations of euphony 
consequently will not cause changes in a language, but rather 
make for keeping it unchanged. Those changes which are gener- 
ally supposed to be based on euphony are due chiefly to conveni- 
ence, in some instances to care of distinctness." This is quite 
true, but scarcely the whole truth. Euphony depends not only 
on custom, but even more on ease of articulation and on ease of 
perception : what requires intricate or difficult movements of 
the organs of speech will always be felt as cacophonous, and so 
will anything that is indistinct or blurred. But nations, as well 
as individuals, have an artistic feeling for these things in different 
degrees, and that may influence the phonetic character of a lan- 
guage, though perhaps chiefly in its broad features, while it may 
be difficult to point out any particular details in phonological 
history which have been thus worked upon. There can be no 
doubt that the artistic feeling is much more developed in the French 
than in the English nation, and we find in French fewer obscure 
vowels and more clearly articulated consonants than in English 
(cf. also my remarks on French accent, GS 28). 

XV. 3. Organic Influences. 

Some modifications of speech sounds are due to the fact that 
the organs of speech are used for other purposes than that of 
speaking. We all know the effect of someone trying to speak 
with his mouth full of food, or with a cigar or a pipe hanging 
between his lips and to some extent impeding their action. 
Various emotions are expressed by facial movements which may 
interfere with the production of ordinary speech sounds. A child 
that is crying speaks differently from one that is smiling or laugh- 
ing. A smile requires a retraction of the corners of the mouth 
and a partial opening of the lips, and thus impedes the formation 
of that lip-closure which is an essential part of the ordinary [m] ; 
hence most people when smiling will substitute the labiodental m, 
which to the ear greatly resembles the bilabial [m]. A smile will 
also often modify the front-round vowel [y] so as to make it 
approach [i]. Sweet may be right in supposing that " the habit 
of speaking with a constant smile or grin " is the reason for the 
Cockney unrounding of the vowel in [nau] for no. Schuchardt 


(Zs. f. rom. Phil. 5. 314) says that in Andalusian quia ! instead 
of ca ! the lips, under the influence of a certain emotion, are drawn 
scoffingly aside. Inversely, the rounding in Josu ! instead of Jtsu ! 
is due to wonder (ib.) ; and exactly in the same way we have 
the surprised or pitying exclamation jeses ! from Jesus in Danish. 
Compare also the rounding in Dan. and G. [no - ] for [ne - , ne'] (nej, 
nein). Lundell mentions that in Swedish a caressing liUa van 
often becomes lyUa von, and I have often observed the same 
rounding in Dan. min lille ven. Schuchardt also mentions an 
Italian [/] instead of [s] under the influence of pain or anger (mi 
duole la tefta ; ti do unofchiaffo) ; a Danish parallel is the frequent 
f/luo"'ar] for sludder 'nonsense.' We are here verging on the 
subject of the symbolic value of speech sounds, which will occupy 
us in a later chapter (XX). 

Observe, too, how people will pronounce under the influence 
of alcohol : the tongue is not under control and is incapable of 
accurately forming the closure necessary for [t], which therefore 
becomes [r], and the thin rill necessary for [s], which therefore 
comes to resemble [/] ; there is also a general tendency to run 
sounds and syllables together. 1 

XV. 4. Lapses and Blendings. 

All these deviations are due to influences from what is outside 
the sphere of language as such. But we now come to something 
of the greatest importance in the life of language, the fact, namely, 
that deviations from the usual or normal pronunciation are very 
often due to causes inside the language itself, either by lingering 
reminiscences of what has just been spoken or by anticipation of 
something that the speaker is just on the point of pronouncing. 
The process of speech is a very complicated one, and while one 
thing is being said, the mind is continually active in preparing 
what has to be said next, arranging the ideas and fashioning the 
linguistic expression in all its details. Each word is a succession 
of sounds, and for each of these a complicated set of orders has 
to be issued from the brain to the various speech organs. Some- 
times these get mixed up, and a command is sent down to one 
organ a moment too early or too late. The inclination to make 
mistakes naturally increases with the number of identical or 

i Dickens, D. Cop. 2. 149 neverberrer, 150 I'mafraid you'renorwell (ib. 
also r for n : Amigoarawaysoo, Goori = Good night). | Our Mut. Fr. 602 
lerrers. | Thackeray, Neu-c. "l63 What that ? | Anstey, Vice V. 328 sAupper, 
I shpoae, wharriplease, say tharragain. | Meredith, R. Fewrel 272 Nor a 
bir of it. | Walpole, Duch. of Wrex. 323-4 noushenah, Wa*A the matter ? | 
Galsworthy, In Chanc. 17 curaA, un/itood'm. Cf. also Fijn van Draat, 
ESt 34. 363 3. 


similar sounds in close proximity. This is well known from those 
'jaw-breaking' tongue-tests with which people amuse them- 
selves in all countries and of which I need give only one typical 
specimen : 

She sells seashells on the seashore ; 
The shells she sells are seashells, I'm sure, 
For if she sells seashells on the seashore, 
Then I'm sure she sells seashore shells. 

If the mind is occupied with one sound while another is being 
pronounced, and thus either runs in advance of or lags behind 
what should be its immediate business, the linguistic result may 
be of various kinds. The simplest case of influencing is assimila- 
tion of two contiguous sounds, which we have already considered 
from a different point of view. Next we have assimilative in- 
fluence on a sound at a distance, as when we lapse into she, shells 
instead of sea shells or she setts ; such is FT. chercher for older 
sercher (whence E. search) from Lat. circare, Dan. and G. vulgar 
ferfant for sergeant ; a curious mixed case is the pronunciation of 
transition as [trsen'si3an] : the normal development is [trsen'zi/an], 
but the voice-articulation of the two hissing sounds is reversed 
(possibly under accessory influence from the numerous words in 
which we have [trsens] with [s], and from words ending in [isan], 
such as vision, division). Further examples of such assimilation 
at a distance or consonant-harmonization (malmsey from malvesie, 
etc.) may be found in my LPh 11. 7, where there are also examples 
of the corresponding harmonizings of vowels : FT. camarade, It. 
uguale, Braganza, from camerade, eguale, Brigantia, etc. In Ugro- 
Finnic and Turkish this harmony of vowels has been raised to 
a principle pervading the whole structure of the language, as 
seen, e.g., most clearly in the varying plural endings in Yakut 
agalar, asalar, ogolor, dorolor, ' fathers, bears, children, muzzles.' 

What escapes at the wrong place and causes confusion may 
be a part of the same word or of a following word as examples 
of the latter case may be given a few of the lapses recorded in 
Meringer and Mayer's Versprechen und Verlesen (Stuttgart, 1895) : 
instead of saying Lateinisches lehnwort Meringer said Laten- 
isches . . . and then corrected himself ; paster noster instead of 
pater noster ; wenn das wesser . . . wetter wieder besser ist. This 
phenomenon is termed in Danish at bakke snagvendt (for snakke 
bagvendt) and in English Spoonerism, from an Oxford don, W. A. 
Spooner, about whom many comic lapses are related (" Don't 
you ever feel a half -warmed fish " instead of " half -formed 
wish "). 

The simplest and most frequently occurring cases in which 
the order for a sound is issued too early or too late are those trans- 


positions of two sounds which the linguists term ' metatheses.' 
They occur most frequently with s in connexion with a stop (wa$p, 
waps ; ask, ax) and with r (chiefly, perhaps exclusively, the trilled 
form of the sound) and a vowel (third, OE. Tpridda). A more com- 
plicated instance is seen in FT. tresor for tesor, thesaurum. If the 
mind does not realize how far the vocal organs have got, the result 
may be the skipping of some sound or sounds ; this is particularly 
likely to happen when the same sound has to be repeated at some 
little distance, and we then have the phenomenon termed ' hap- 
lology,' as in eighteen, OE. eahtatiene, and in the frequent pronun- 
ciation probly for probably, FT. controle, idolatrie for contrerole, 
idololatrie, Lat. stipendium for stipipendium, and numerous similar 
instances in every language (LPh 11. 9). Sometimes a sound may 
be skipped because the mind is confused through the fact that 
the same sound has to be pronounced a little later ; thus the old 
Gothonic word for ' bird ' (G. vogel, OE. fugol ; E. fowl with a 
modified meaning) is derived from the verb fly, OE. fleogan, and 
originally had some form like *fluglo (OE. had an adj. flugol) ; in 
recent times flugelman (G. fliigelmann) has become fugleman. 
It. has Federigo for Frederigo thus the exactly opposite result of 
what has been brought about in tresor from the same kind of mental 

When words are often repeated in succession, sounds from 
one of them will often creep into another, as is seen very often in 
numerals : the nasal which was found in the old forms for 7, 9 
and 10 and is still seen in E. seven, nine, ten, has no place in the 
word for 8, and accordingly we have in the ordinal ON. sjaundi, 
dtli, niundi, tiundi, but already in ON. we find dttandi by the side 
of dtti, and in Dan. the present-day forms are syvende, ottende, 
niende, tiende ; in the same way OFr. had sedme, uidme, noefme, 
disme (which have all now disappeared with the exception of dime 
as a substantive). In the names of the months we had the same 
formation of a series in OFr. : septembre, octembre, novembre, decem- 
bre, but learned influence has reinstated octobre. G. elf for older 
eilf owes its vowel to the following zwelf ; and as now the latter 
has given way to ziuolf (the vowel being rounded in consequence 
of the w) many dialects count zehn, olf, zwolf. Similarly, it seems 
to be due to their frequent occurrence in close contact with the 
verbal forms in -no that the Italian plural pronouns egli, elle are 
extended with that ending : *glino amano, eUeno dicono. Diez 
compares the curious Bavarian wo-st bist, dem-st gehorst, etc., in 
which the personal ending of the verb is transferred to some 
other word with which it has nothing to do (on this phenomenon 
see Herzog, Streitfragen d. roman. phil. 48, Buergel Goodwin, 
Umgangsspr. in Sudbayern 99). 

282 CAUSES OF CHANGE [en. xv 

In speaking, the mind is occupied not only with the words 
one is already pronouncing or knows that one is going to 
pronounce, but also with the ideas which one has to ex- 
press but for which one has not yet chosen the linguistic 
form. In many cases two synonyms will rise to the con- 
sciousness at the same time, and the hesitation between them 
will often result in a compromise which contains the head 
of one and the tail of another word. It is evident that this 
process of blending is intimately related to those we have just 
been considering ; see the detailed treatment in Ch. XVI 6. 

Syntactical blends are very frequent. Hesitation between 
different from and other than will result in different than or another 
from, and similarly we occasionally find another to, different to, 
contrary than, contrary from, opposite from, anywhere than. After 
a clause introduced by hardly or scarcely the normal conjunction 
is when, but sometimes we find than, because that is regular after 
the synonymous no sooner. 

XV. 5. Latitude of Correctness. 

It is a natural consequence of the essence of human speech 
and the way in which it is transmitted from generation to genera- 
tion that we have everywhere to recognize a certain latitude of 
correctness, alike in the significations in which the words may 
be used, in syntax and in pronunciation. The nearer a speaker 
keeps to the centre of what is established or usual, the easier will 
it be to understand him. If he is ' eccentric ' on one point or 
another, the result may not always be that he conveys no idea 
at all, or that he is misunderstood, but often merely that he is 
understood with some little difficulty, or that his hearers have a 
momentary feeling of something odd in his choice of words, or 
expressions or pronunciation. In many cases, when someone 
has overstepped the boundaries of what is established, his hearers 
do not at once catch his meaning and have to gather it from the 
whole context of what follows : not unfrequently the meaning 
of something you have heard as an incomprehensible string of 
syllables will suddenly flash upon you without your knowing how 
it has happened. Misunderstandings are, of course, most liable 
to occur if words of different meaning, which in themselves would 
give sense in the same collocation, are similar in sound : in that 
case a trifling alteration of one sound, which in other words would 
create no difficulty at all, may prove pernicious. Now, what is 
the bearing of these considerations on the question of sound 
changes ? 

The latitude of correctness is very far from being the same in 


different languages. Some sounds in each language move within 
narrow boundaries, while others have a much larger field assigned 
to them ; each language is punctilious in some, but not in all 
points. Deviations which in one language would be considered 
trifling, in another would be intolerable perversions. In German, 
for instance, a wide margin is allowed for the (local and individual) 
pronunciation of the diphthong written eu or du (in eule, trdume) : 
it may begin with [o] or [ce] or even [ae, a], and it may end in [i], 
or the corresponding rounded vowel [y], or one of the mid front 
vowels, rounded or not, it does not matter much ; the diphthong 
is recognized or acknowledged in many shapes, while the similar 
diphthong in English, as in toy, voice, allows a far less range of 
variation (for other examples see LPh 16. 22). 

Now, it is very important to keep in mind that there is an in- 
timate connexion between phonetic latitude and the significations 
of words. If there are in a language a great many pairs of words 
which are identical in sound except for, say, the difference between 
[e - ] and [i - ] (or between long and short [i], or between voiced [b] 
and voiceless [p], or between a high and a low tone, etc.), then 
the speakers of that language necessarily will make that distinction 
with great precision, as otherwise too many misunderstandings 
would result. If, on the other hand, no mistakes worth speaking 
of would ensue, there is not the same inducement to be careful. 
In English, and to a somewhat lesser degree in French, it is easy 
to make up long lists of pairs of words where the sole difference 
is between voice and voicelessness in the final consonant (cab cap, 
bad bat, frog frock, etc.) ; hence final [b] and [p], [d] and [t], [g] 
and [k] are kept apart conscientiously, while German possesses 
very few such pairs of words ; in German, consequently, the 
natural tendency to make final consonants voiceless has not been 
checked, and all final stopped consonants have now become voice- 
less. In initial and medial position, too, there are very few ex- 
amples in German of the same distinction (see the lists, LPh 6. 78), 
and this circumstance makes us understand why Germans we 
so apt to efface the difference between [b, d, g] and [p, t, k]. On 
the other hand, the distinction between a long and a short vowel is 
kept much more effectively in German than in French, because 
in German ten or twenty times as many words would be liable to 
confusion through pronouncing a long instead of a short vowel 
or vice versa. In French no two words are kept apart by means 
of stress, as in English or German ; so the rule laid down in 
grammars that the stress falls on the final syllable of the word is 
very frequently broken through for rhythmic and other reasons. 
Other similar instances might easily be advanced. 


XV. 6. Equidistant and Convergent Changes. 

Phonetic shifts are of two kinds : the shifted sound may be 
identical with one already found in the language, or it may be a 
new sound. In the former, but not in the latter kind, fresh possi- 
bilities of confusions and misunderstandings may arise. Now, in 
some cases one sound (or series of sounds) marches into a position 
which has just been abandoned by another sound (or series of 
sounds), which has in its turn shifted into some other place. A 
notable instance is the old Gothonic consonant shift : Aryan b, 
d, g cannot have become Gothonic p, t, k till after primitive p, t, k 
had already become fricatives [f, )>, x (h)], for had the shift taken 
place before, intolerable confusion would have reigned in all parts 
of the vocabulary. Another instructive example is seen in the 
history of English long vowels. Not till OE. long a had been 
rounded into something like [o-] (OE. stan, ME. stoon, stone) could 
a new long a develop, chiefly through lengthening of an old short 
a in certain positions. Somewhat later we witness the great vowel- 
raising through which the phonetic value of the long vowels 
(written all the time in essentially the same way) has been con- 
stantly on the move and yet the distance between them has been 
kept, so that no confusions worth speaking of have ever occurred. 
If we here leave out of account the rounded back vowels and speak 
only of front vowels, the shift may be thus represented through 
typical examples (the first and the last columns show the spelling, 
the others the sounds) : 

Middle English. Elizabethan. Present English. 

(1) bite brta beit bait bite 

(2) bete be'ta bi't bi't beet 

(3) bete be'ta be't bi't beat 

(4) abate a'ba'fo ojbse't o'beit abate 

When the sound of (2) was raised into [r], the sound of (1) 
had already left that position and had been diphthongized, and 
when the sound of (3) was raised from an open into a close e, (2) 
had already become [r] ; (4) could not become (ae'] or [V] till 
(3) had become a comparatively close e sound. The four vowels, 
as it were, climbed the ladder without ever reaching each other 
a climbing which took centuries and in each case implied inter- 
mediate steps not indicated in our survey. No clashings could 
occur so long as each category kept its distance from the sounds 
above and below, and thus we find that the Elizabethans as 
scrupulously as Chaucer kept the four classes of words apart in 
their rimes. But in the seventeenth century class (3) was raised, 


and as no corresponding change had taken place with (2), the 
two classes have now fallen together with the single sound [r]. 
This entails a certain number of homophones such as had not been 
created through the preceding equidistant changes. 

XV. 7. Homophones. 

The reader here will naturally object that the fact of new 
homophones arising through this vowel change goes against the 
theory that the necessity of certain distinctions can keep in check 
the tendency to phonetic changes. But homophones do not 
always imply frequent misunderstandings : some homophones 
are more harmless than others. Now, if we look at the list of the 
homophones created by this raising of the close e (MEG i. 11. 74), 
we shall soon discover that very few mistakes of any consequence 
could arise through the obliteration of the distinction between 
this vowel and the previously existing [i']. For substantives and 
verbal forms (like bean and been, beet beat, flea flee, heel heal, leek 
leak, meat meet, reed read, sea see, seam seem, steel steal), or sub- 
stantives and adjectives (like deer dear, leaf lief, shear sheer, week 
weak) will generally be easily distinguished by their position in 
the sentence ; nor will a plural such as feet be often mistaken for 
the singular feat. Actual misunderstandings of any importance 
are only imaginable when the two words belong to the same ' part 
of speech,' but of such pairs we meet only few : beach beech, breach 
breech, mead meed, peace piece, peal peel, quean queen, seal ceil, 
wean ween, wheal wheel. I think the judicious reader will agree 
with me that confusions due to these words being pronounced 
in the same way will be few and far between, and one understands 
that they cannot have been powerful enough to prevent hundreds 
of other words from having their sound changed. An effective 
prevention can only be expected when the falling together in 
sound would seriously impair the understanding of many sentences. 

It is, moreover, interesting to note how many of the words 
which were made identical with others through this change were 
already rare at the time or have at any rate become obsolete 
since : this is true of breech, lief, meed, mete (adj.), quean, weal, 
wheal, ween and perhaps a few others. Now, obsolescence of some 
words is always found in connexion with such convergent sound 
changes. In some cases the word had already become rare before 
the change in sound took place, and then it is obvious that it cannot 
have offered serious resistance to the change that was setting in. 
In other cases the dying out of a word must be looked upon as 
a consequence of the sound change which had actually taken place. 
Many scholars are now inclined to see in phonetic coalescence 


one of the chief reasons why words fall into disuse, see, e.g., 
Liebisch (PBB XXIII, 228, many German examples in 0. Weise, 
Unsere Mutterspr., 3d ed., 206) and Gillieron, La faillite de Vety- 
mologie phonetique (Neuveville, 1919 a book whose sensational 
title is hardly justified by its contents). 

The drawbacks of homophones 1 are counteracted in various 
ways. Very often a synonym steps forward, as when lad or boy 
is used in nearly all English dialects to supplant son, which has 
become identical in sound with sun (of. above p. 120, a childish 
instance). Very often it becomes usual to avoid misunderstand- 
ings through some addition, as when we say the sole of her foot, 
because her sole might be taken to mean her soul, or when the 
French say undid, coudre or un de a jouer (of. E. minister of religion 
and cabinet minister, the right-hand corner, the subject-matter, 
where the same expedient is used to obviate ambiguities arisen 
from other causes). Chinese, of course, is the classical example 
of a language abounding in homophones caused by convergent 
sound changes, and it is highly interesting to study the various 
ways in which that language has remedied the resulting draw- 
backs, see, e.g., B. Karlgren, Ordet och pennan i Mittens rike (Stock- 
holm, 1918), p. 49 ff. But on the whole we must say that the ways 
in which these phonetic inconveniences are counteracted are the 
same as those in which speakers react against misunderstandings 
arising from semantic or syntactic causes : as soon as they perceive 
that their meaning is not apprehended they turn their phrases in 
a different way, choosing some other expression for their thought, 
and by this means language is gradually freed from ambiguity. 

1 The inconveniences arising from having many homophones in a language 
are eloquently set forth by Robert Bridges, On English Homophones (S.P.E., 
Oxford, 1919) but I would not subscribe to all the Laureate's views, least 
of all to his practical suggestions and to his unjustifiable attacks on some 
very meritorious English phoneticians. He seems also to exaggerate the 
dangers, e.g. of the two words know and no having the same sound, when 
he says (p. 22) that unless a vowel like that in law be restored to the negative 
no, " I should judge that the verb to know is doomed. The third person 
singular of its present tense is nose, and its past tense ia new, and the whole 
inconvenience is too radical and perpetual to be received all over the world." 
But surely the rdle of these words in connected speech is so different, and 
is nearly always made so clear by the context, that it is very difficult to 
imagine real sentences in which there would be any serious change of mis- 
taking know for no, or knows for nose, or knew for new. I repeat : it is not 
homophony as such the phenomenon shown in the long lists lexicographers 
can draw up of words of the same sound that is decisive, but the chances 
of mistakes in connected speech, It has been disputed whether the loss 
of Gr. humeis, ' ye,' was due to its identity in sound with hemeis, ' we ' ; 
Hatzidakis says that the new formation eseis is earlier than the falling 
together of e and u [y] in the sound [i]. But according to Dieterich and 
C. D. Buck (Classical Philology, 9. 90, 1914) the confusion of u and or 
dates back to the second century. Anyhow, all confusion is now obviated, 
for both the first and the second persons pi. have new forms which are 
unambiguous : cmeis and eseis or sets. 


XV. 8. Significative Sounds preserved, 

My contention that the significative side of language has in 
BO far exercised an influence on phonetic development that the 
possibility of many misunderstandings may effectually check 
the coalescence of two hitherto distinct sounds should not be 
identified with one of the tenets of the older school (Curtius in- 
cluded) against which the * young grammarians ' raised an 
emphatic protest, namely, that a tendency to preserve signi- 
ficative sounds and syllables might produce exceptions to the 
normal course of phonetic change. Delbruck and his friends may 
be right in much of what they said against Curtius for instance, 
when he explained the retention of in some Greek optative forms 
through a consciousness of the original meaning of this suffix ; but 
their denial was in its way just as exaggerated as his affirmation. 
It cannot justly be urged against the influence of signification that 
a preservation of a sound on that account would only be imagin- 
able on the supposition that the speaker was conscious of a 
threatened sound change and wanted to avoid it. One need not 
suppose a speaker to be on his guard against a * sound law ' : 
the only thing required is that he should feel, or be made to feel, 
that he is not understood when he speaks indistinctly ; if on that 
account he has to repeat his words he will naturally be careful 
to pronounce the sound he has skipped or slurred, and may even 
be tempted to exaggerate it a little. 

There do not seem to be many quite unimpeachable examples 
of words which have received exceptional phonetic treatment to 
obviate misunderstandings arising from homophony ; other explana- 
tions (analogy from other forms of the same word, etc.) can gener- 
ally be alleged more or less plausibly. But this does seem to be 
the easiest explanation of the fact that the E. preposition on has 
always the full vowel [o], though in nine cases out of ten it is weakly 
stressed and though all the other analogous prepositions (to, for, 
of, at) in the corresponding weak positions in sentences are gener- 
ally pronounced with the ' neutral ' vowel [a]. But if on were 
similarly pronounced, ambiguity would very often result from its 
phonetic identity with the weak forms of the extremely frequent 
little words an (the indefinite article) and and (possibly also in), 
not to mention the great number of [an]s in words like drunken, 
shaken, deepen, etc., where the forms without -en also exist. With 
the preposition upon the same considerations do not hold good, 
hence the frequency of the pronunciation [apan] in weak position. 
Considerations of clearness have also led to the disuse of the for- 
merly frequent form o (o') which was the ' natural ' development 
of each of the two prepositions on and of. The form written a 


survives only in some fossilized combinations like ashore ; in 
several others it has now disappeared (set the clock going, formerly 
a-going, etc.). 

Sometimes, when all ordinary words are affected by a certain 
sound change, some words prove refractory because in their case 
the old sound is found to be more expressive than the new one. 
When the long E. [r] was diphthongized into [ai], the words pipe 
and whine ceased to be good echoisms, but some dialects have 
peep ' complain,' which keeps the old sound of the former, and 
the Irish say wheen (Joyce, English as we speak it in Ireland, 103). 
In squeeze the [r] sound has been retained as more expressive 
the earlier form was squize; and the same is the case with some 
words meaning ' to look narrowly ' : peer, peek, keek, earlier pire, 
pike, kike (cf. Dan. pippe, kikke, kige, G. kieken). 1 In the same 
way, when the old [a - ] was changed into {V, ei], the word gape 
ceased to be expressive (as it is still in Dan. gabe), but in popular 
speech the tendency to raise the vowel was resisted, and the old 
sound [ga'p] persisted, spelt garp as a London form in 1817 (Ellis, 
EEP v. 228) and still common in many dialects (see gaup, garp 
fn EDD) ; Professor Hempl told me that [ga'p] was also a common 
pronunciation in America. In the chapter on Sound Symbolism 
(XX) we shall see some other instances of exceptional phonetic 
treatment of symbolic words (especially tiny, teeny, little, cuckoo). 

XV. 9. Divergent Changes and Analogy. 

Besides equidistant and convergent sound changes we have 
divergent changes, through which sounds at one time identical 
have separated themselves later. This is a mere consequence of 
the fact that it is rare for a sound to be changed equally in all 
positions in which it occurs. On the contrary, one must admit 
that the vast majority of sound changes are conditioned by some 
such circumstance as influence of neighbouring sounds, position 
as initial, medial or final (often with subdivisions, as position 
between vowels, etc.), place in a strongly or weakly stressed 
syllable, and so forth. One may take as examples some familiar 
instances from French : Latin c (pronounced [k]), is variously 
treated before o (corpus> corps), a (canem> chien), and e (centum 
> cent) ; in amicum> ami it has totally disappeared. Lat. a 

1 The NED has not arrived at this explanation ; it says : " Peer is not 
a phonetic development of pire, and cannot, so far as is at present known, 
be formally identified with that word " ; " the verbs keek, peek, and peep 
are app. closely allied to each other. Kike and pike, as earlier forms of 
keek and peek, occur in Chaucer ; pepe, peep is of later appearance. . . . 
The phonetic relations between the forms pike, peek, peak, are as yet un- 


becomes ein a stressed open syllable (natum>n6), except before 
a nasal (amat>aime) ; but after c we have a different treatment 
(canem> chien), and in a close syllable it is kept (arborem 
> arbre) ; in weak syllables it is kept initially (amorem> amour), 
but becomes [a] (spelt e) finally (bona> bonne). This enumeration 
of the chief rules will serve to show the far-reaching differentia- 
tion which in this way may take place among words closely 
related as parts of the same paradigm or family of words ; 
thus, for Lat. amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant we get 
OFr. aim, aimes, aime, amons, amez, aiment, until the discrepancy 
is removed through analogy, and we get the regular modern 
forms aime, aimes, aime, aimons, aimez, aiment. The levelling ten- 
dency, however, is not strong enough to affect the initial a in 
amour and amant, which are felt as less closely connected with 
the verbal forms. What were at first only small differences may 
in course of time become greater through subsequent changes, as 
when the difference bet ween feel and felt, keep and kept, etc., which 
was originally one of length only, became one of vowel quality 
as well, through the raising of long [e - ] to [r], while short [e] was 
not raised. And thus in many other cases. Different nations 
differ greatly in the degree in which they permit differentiation of 
cognate words ; most nations resent any differentiation in initial 
sounds, while the Kelts have no objection to ' the same word ' 
having as many as four different beginnings (for instance t-, d-, 
n-, nh-) according to circumstances. In Icelandic the word for 
' other, second ' has for centuries in different cases assumed 
such different forms as annarr, onnur, oftrum, aftrir, forms which 
in the other Scandinavian languages have been levelled down. 

It is a natural consequence of the manner in which phono- 
logy is usually investigated and represented in manuals of historical 
grammar which start with some old stage and follow the various 
changes of each sound in later stages that these divergent changes 
have attracted nearly the sole attention of scholars ; this has 
led to the prevalent idea that sound laws and analogy are the two 
opposed principles in the life of languages, the former tending 
always to destroy regularity and harmony, and the latter recon- 
structing what would without it be chaos and confusion. 1 

1 See, for instance, the following strong expressions : " Une langue 
eat sans cesse rongee et menaces de mine par 1'action des lois phonetiques, 
qui, iivrees a elles-memes, opereraient avec une regularite fatale et desagre- 
geraient le systeme grammatical. . . . Heureusement 1'analogie (c'est ainsi 
qu'on designe la tendance inconsciente a conserver ou recreer ce que les 
lois phonetiques menacent ou detruisent) a peu a peu efface ces differences . . . 
il s'agit d'une perpetuelle degradation due aux changements phonetiques 
aveugles, et qui est toujours ou prevenue ou reparee par une reorganisation 
parallele du systeme " (Bally, LV 44 f.). 



This view, however, is too rigorous and does not take into 
account the manysidedness of linguistic life. It is not every 
irregularity that is due to the operation of phonetic laws, as we 
have in all languages many survivals of the confused manner in 
which ideas were arranged and expressed in the mind of primitive 
man. On the other hand, there are many phonetic changes which 
do not increase the number of existing irregularities, but make 
for regularity and a simpler system through abolishing phonetic 
distinctions which had no semantic or functional value ; such 
are, for instance, those convergent changes of unstressed vowels 
which have simplified the English flexional system (Ch. XIV 10 
above). And if we were in the habit of looking at linguistic change 
from the other end, tracing present sounds back to former sounds 
instead of beginning with antiquity, we should see that convergent 
changes are just as frequent as divergent ones. Indeed, many 
changes may be counted under both heads ; an o, which is dis- 
sociated from other a'a through becoming e, is identified with 
and from henceforth shares the destiny of other e's, etc. 

XV. 10. Extension of Sound Laws. 

If a phonetic change has given to some words two forms without 
any difference in signification, the same alternation may be ex- 
tended to other cases in which the sound in question has a different 
origin (' phonetic analogy '). An undoubted instance is the un- 
historic r in recent English. When the consonantal [r] was 
dropped finally and before a consonant while it was retained before 
a vowel, and words like better, here thus came to have two forms 
[beta, hia] and [betar (of), hiar (an Se'a)] better off, here and there, 
the same alternation was transferred to words like idea, drama 
[ai'dia, dra'ma], so that the sound [r] is now very frequently inserted 
before a word beginning with a vowel : I'd no idea-T-of this, a 
drama-r-of Ibsen (many references MEG i. 13. 42). In French 
final t and 5 have become mute, but are retained before a vowel : 
il est [e] venu, il est [et] arrive ; les [le] femmes, les [lez] homines ; 
and now vulgar speakers will insert [t] or [z] in the wrong 
place between vowels : pa-t assez, j'allai-t icrire, avant-z-hier, 
moi-z-aussi ; this is called ' cuir ' or ' velours.' 

In course of time a ' phonetic law ' may undergo a kind of 
metamorphosis, being extended to a greater and greater number 
of combinations. As regards recent times we are sometimes 
able to trace such a gradual development. A case in point is 
the dropping of [j] in [ju'] after certain consonants in English 
[see MEG i. 13, 7). It began with r as in true, rude ; next came 
I when preceded by a consonant, as in blue, clue ; in these cases 


[j] is never heard. But after I not preceded by another consonant 
there is a good deal of vacillation, thus in Lucy, absolute ; after 
[s, z] as in Susan, resume there is a strong tendency to suppress [j], 
though this pronunciation has not yet prevailed, 1 and after [t, d,n], 
as in tune, due, new, the suppression is in Britain only found in vulgar 
speakers, while in some parts of the United States it is heard from 
educated speakers as well. In the speech of these the sound law 
may be said to attack any (ju'] after any point consonant, while 
it will have to be formulated in various less comprehensive terms 
for British speakers belonging to older or younger generations. 
It is extremely difficult, not to say impossible, to reconcile such 
occurrences with the orthodox ' young grammarian ' theory of 
sound changes being due to a shifting of the organic feeling or 
motor sensation ( verse hiebung des bewegungsgefuhls) which is 
supposed to have necessarily taken place wherever the same sound 
was under the same phonetic conditions. For what are here the 
same phonetic conditions ? The position after r, after I com- 
binations, after I even when standing alone, after all point con- 
sonants ? Each generation of English speakers will give a 
different answer to this question. Now, it is highly probable that 
many of the comprehensive prehistoric sound changes, of which 
we see only the final result, while possible intermediate stages 
evade our inquiry, have begun in the same modest way as the 
transition from [ju - ] to [u - ] in English : with regard to them we 
are in exactly the same position as a man who had heard only 
such speakers as say consistently [tnr, nrd, bhr, hrsi, su'zn, 
ri'zrrm, tarn, du - , mr] and who would then naturally suppose 
that [j] in the combination [ju~] had been dropped all at once 
after any point consonant. 

XV. 11. Spreading of Sound Change. 

Sound laws (to retain provisionally that firmly established 
term) have by some linguists, who rightly reject the comparison 
with natural laws (e.g. Meringer), been compared rather with the 
4 laws ' of fashion in dress. But I think it is important to make 
a distinction here : the comparison with fashions throws no light 
whatever on the question how sound changes originate it can tell 
us nothing about the first impulse to drop [j] in certain positions 
before [u 1 ] ; but the comparison is valid when we come to consider 
the question how such a change when first begun in one individual 
spreads to other individuals. While the former question has been 

* Some speakers will say [sir] in Susan, supreme, superstition, but will 
take care to pronounce [sju 1 ] in suit, sue. Others are more consistent one 
way or the other. 


dealt with at some length in the preceding investigation, it now 
remains for us to say something about the latter. The spreading 
of phonetic change, as of any other linguistic change, is due to 
imitation, conscious and unconscious, of the speech habits of 
other people. We have already met with imitation in the chapters 
dealing with the child and with the influence exerted by foreign 
languages. But man is apt to imitate throughout the whole of 
his life, and this statement applies to his language as much as to 
his other habits. What he imitates, in this as in other fields, is 
not always the best ; a real valuation of what would be linguis- 
tically good or preferable does not of course enter the head of 
the ' man in the street.' But he may imitate what he thinks 
pretty, or funny, and especially what he thinks characteristic of 
those people whom for some reason or other he looks up to. 
Imitation is essentially a social phenomenon, and if people do not 
always imitate the best (the best thing, the best pronunciation), 
they will generally imitate ' their betters,' i.e. those that are 
superior to them in rank, in social position, in wealth, in every- 
thing that is thought enviable. What constitutes this superiority 
cannot be stated once for all ; it varies according to surroundings, 
age, etc. A schoolboy may feel tempted to imitate a rough, swag- 
gering boy a year or two older than himself rather than his teachers 
or parents, and in later life he may find other people worthy of 
imitation, according to his occupation or profession or individual 
taste. But when he does imitate he is apt to imitate everything, 
even sometimes things that are not worth imitating. In this way 
Percy, in Henry IV, Second Part, n. 3. 24 

was indeed the glasse 

Wherein the noble youth did dresse themselues. 
He had no legges, that practic'd not his gate, 
And speaking thicke 1 (which Nature made his blemish) 
Became the accents of the valiant. 
For those that could speake low and tardily, 
Would turne their owne perfection to abuse, 
To secrne like him. So that in speech, in gate . . . 
He was the marko, and glasse, coppy, and booke, 
That fashion'd others. 

The spreading of a new pronunciation through imitation must 
necessarily take some time, though the process may in some 
instances be fairly rapid. In some historical instances we are 
able to see how a new sound, taking its rise in some particular part 
of a country, spreads gradually like a wave, until finally it has 
pervaded the whole of a linguistic area. It cannot become uni- 
versal all at once ; but it is evident that the more natural a new 

1 I.e. " With confused and indistinct articulation ; also, with a husky 
or hoarse voice " NED 


mode of pronunciation seems to members of a particular speech 
community, the more readily will it be accepted and the more 
rapid will be its diffusion. Very often, both when the new pro- 
nunciation is easier and when there are special psychological 
inducements operating in one definite direction, the new form 
may originate independently in different individuals, and that of 
course will facilitate its acceptation by others. But as a rule a 
new pronunciation does not become general except after many 
attempts : it may have arisen many times and have died out 
again, until finally it finds a fertile soil in which to take firm root. 
It may not be superfluous to utter a warning against a fallacy which 
is found now and then in linguistic works : when some Danish 
or English document, say, of the fifteenth century contains a 
spelling indicative of a pronunciation which we should call 
' modern,' it is hastily concluded that people in those days spoke 
in that respect exactly as they do now, whatever the usual spelling 
and the testimony of much later grammarians may indicate to 
the contrary. But this is far from certain. The more isolated 
such a spelling is, the greater is the probability that it shows 
nothing but an individual or even momentary deviation from 
what was then the common pronunciation the first swallow ' who 
found with horror that he'd not brought spring.' 

XV. 12. Reaction. 

Even those who have no linguistic training will have some 
apperception of sounds as such, and will notice regular correspon- 
dences, and even occasionally exaggerate them, thereby produc- 
ing those ' hypercorrect ' forms which are of specially frequent 
occurrence when dialect speakers try to use the ' received stan- 
dard ' of their country. The psychology of this process is well 
brought out by B. I. Wheeler, who relates (Transact. Am. Philol. 
Ass. 32. 14, 1901 ; I change his symbols into my own phonetic 
notation) : " In my own native dialect I pronounced new as [mr]. 
I have found myself in later years inclined to say [nju 1 ], especially 
when speaking carefully and particularly in public ; so also 
[tju-zdi] Tuesday. There has developed itself in connexion with 
these and other words a dual sound-image [u' : ju - ] of such validity 
that whenever [u - ] is to be formed after a dental [alveolar] ex- 
plosive or nasal, the alternative [ju - ] is likely to present itself and 
create the effect of momentary uncertainty. Less frequently than 
in new, Tuesday, the [j] intrudes itself in tune, duty, due, dew, tumour, 
tube, tutor, etc. ; but under special provocation I am liable to use 
it in any of these, and have even caught myself, when in a mood 
of uttermost precision, passing beyond the bounds of the imitative 


adoption of the new sound into self -annexed territory, and creat- 
ing [dju 1 ] do and [tjir] two" One more instance from America 
may be given : "In the dialect of Missouri and the neighbouring 
States, final a in such words as America, Arizona, Nevada becomes 
y Americy, Arizony, Nevady. All educated people in that region 
carefully correct this vulgarism out of their speech ; and many 
of them carry the correction too far and say Missoura, praira, etc." 
(Sturtevant, LCH 79). Similarly, many Irish people, noticing 
that refined English has [r] in many cases where they have [e - ] 
(tea, sea, please, etc.) adopt [r] in these words, and transfer it 
erroneously to words like great, pear, bear, etc. (MEG i. 11. 73) ; 
they may also, when correcting their own ar into er, in such words 
as learn, go too far and speak of derning a stocking (Joyce, English 
as we speak it in Ireland, 93). Cf. from England such forms as 
ruing, certing, for ruin, certain. 

From Germany I may mention that Low German speakers 
desiring to talk High German are apt to say zeller instead of teller, 
because High German in many words has z for their t (zaJil, zahm, 
etc.), and that those who in their native speech have j for g 
(Berlin, etc., eine jute jebratene jans ist eine jute jabe jottes) 
will sometimes, when trying to talk correctly, say getzt, gahr for 
jetzt, jahr, 1 

It will be easily seen that such hypercorrect forms are closely 
related to those ' spelling pronunciations ' which become frequent 
when there is much reading of a language whose spelling is not 
accurately phonetic ; the nineteenth century saw a great number 
of them, and their number is likely to increase in this century 
especially among social upstarts, who are always fond of showing 
off their new-gained superiority in this and similar ways. But 
they need not detain us here, as being really foreign to our subject, 
the natural development of speech sounds. I only wish to point 
out that many forms which are apparently due to influence from 
spelling may not have their origin exclusively from that source, 
but may be genuine archaic forms that have been preserved 
through purely oral tradition by the side of more worn-down 
forms of the same word. For it must be admitted that two or 
three forms of the same word may coexist and be used according 
to the more or less solemn style of utterance employed. Even 

1 Even in speaking a foreign language one may unconsciously apply 
phonetic correspondences ; a countryman of mine thus told me that he 
once, in his anger at being charged an exorbitant price for something, ex- 
claimed : " Das sind doch unblaue preise ! " coining in the hurry the word 
unblaue for the Danish ublu (shameless), because the negative prefix un- 
eorresponda to Dan. a-, and ou very often stands in German where Dan. 
has u (haus hua, etc.). On hearing his own words, however, he imme- 
diately saw his mistake and burst out laughing 

12] REACTION 295 

among savages, who are unacquainted with the art of writing, 
we are told that archaic forms of speech are often kept up and 
remembered as parts of old songs only, or as belonging to solemn 
rites, cults, etc. 

XV. 13. Sound Laws and Etymological Science. 

In this and the preceding chapter I have tried to pass in review 
the various circumstances which make for changes in the phonetic 
structure of languages. My treatment is far from exhaustive and 
may have other defects ; but I want to point out the fact that 
nowhere have I found any reason to accept the theory that sound 
changes always take place according to rigorous or ' blind ' laws 
admitting no exceptions. On the contrary, I have found many 
indications that complete consistency is no more to be expected 
from human beings in pronunciation than in any other sphere. 

It is very often said that if sound laws admitted of exceptions 
there would be no possibility of a science of etymology. Thus 
Curtius wrote as early as 1858 (as quoted by Oertel 259) : " If 
the history of language really showed such sporadic aberrations, 
such pathological, wholly irrational phonetic malformations, we 
should have to give up all etymologizing. For only that which 
is governed by law and reducible to a coherent system can form 
the object of scientific investigation-, whatever is due to chance 
may at best be guessed at, but will never yield to scientific infer- 
ence." In his practice, however, Curtius was not so strict as his 
followers. Leskien, one of the recognized leaders of the ' young 
grammarians,' says (Deklination, xxvii) : "If exceptions are 
admitted at will (abweichungen), it amounts to declaring that 
the object of examination, language, is inaccessible to scientific 
comprehension." Since then, it has been repeated over and over 
again that without strict adherence to phonetic laws etymological 
science is a sheer impossibility, and sometimes those who have 
doubted the existence of strict laws in phonology have been looked 
upon as obscurantists adverse to a scientific treatment of lan- 
guage in general, although, of course, they did not believe that 
everything is left to chance or that they were free to put forward 
purely arbitrary exceptions. 

There are, however, many instances in which it is hardly 
possible to deny etymological connexion, though ' the phonetic 
laws are not observed.' Is not Gothic azgo with its voiced conso- 
nants evidently ' the same word ' as E. ash, G. asche, Dan. aske, 
with their voiceless consonants ? G. neffe with short vowel must 
nevertheless be identical with MHG. neve, OHG. nevo ; E. pebble 
with OE. papol ; rescue with ME. rescowe ; flagon with FT. flacon, 


though each of these words contains deviations from what we 
find in other cases. It is hard to keep apart two similar forms 
for ' heart,' one with initial gh in Skt. hrd and Av. zered-, and 
another with initial k in Gr. kardia, ker, Lat. cor, Goth. Jiairto, 
etc. The Greek ordinals hebdomos, ogdoos have voiced consonants 
over against the voiceless combinations in heptd, okto, and yet 
cannot be separated from them. All this goes to show (and many 
more cases might be instanced) that there are in every language 
words so similar in sound and signification that they cannot be 
separated, though they break the ' sound laws ' : in such cases, 
where etymologies are too palpable, even the strictest scholars 
momentarily forget their strictness, maybe with great reluctance 
and in the secret hope that some day the reason for the deviation 
may be discovered and the principle thus be maintained. 

Instead of exacting strict adherence to sound laws everywhere 
as the basis of any etymologizing, it seems therefore to be in better 
agreement with common sense to say : whenever an etymology 
is not palpably evident, whenever there is some difficulty because 
the compared words are either too remote in sound or in sense or 
belong to distant periods of the same language or to remotely 
related languages, your etymology cannot be reckoned as proved 
unless you have shown by other strictly parallel cases that the 
sound in question has been treated in exactly the same way in the 
same language. This, of course, applies more to old than to modern 
periods, and we thus see that while in living languages accessible 
to direct observation we do not find sound laws observed without 
exceptions, and though we must suppose that, on account of the 
essential similarity of human psychology, conditions have been 
the same at all periods, it is not unreasonable, in giving etymo- 
logies for words from old periods, to act as if sound changes followed 
strict laws admitting no exceptions ; this is simply a matter of 
proof, and really amounts to this : where the matter is doubt- 
ful, we must require a great degree of probability in that field 
which allows of the simplest and most easily controllable formulas, 
namely the phonetic field. For here we have comparatively 
definite phenomena and are consequently able with relative ease 
to compute the possibilities of change, while this is infinitely more 
difficult in the field of significations. The possibilities of semantic 
change are so manifold that the only thing generally required 
when the change is not obvious is to show some kind of parallel 
change, which need not even have taken place in the same lan- 
guage or group of languages, while with regard to sounds the 
corresponding changes must have occurred in the same language 
and at the same period in order for the evidence to be su^ient to 
establish the etymology in question. 


It would perhaps be best if linguists entirely gave up the habit 
of speaking about phonetic ' laws,' and instead used some such 
expression as phonetic formulas or rules. But if we are to keep 
the word ' law,' we may with some justice think of the use of 
that word in juridical parlance. When we read such phrases as : 
this assumption is against phonetic laws, or, phonetic laws do not 
allow us tnis or that etymology, or, the writer of some book under 
review is guilty of many transgressions of established phonetic 
laws, etc., such expressions cannot help suggesting the idea that 
phonetic laws resemble paragraphs of some criminal law. We 
may formulate the principle in something like the following way : 
If in the etymologies you propose you do not observe these rules, 
if, for instance, you venture to make Gr. kaleo = E. call in spite 
of the fact that Gr. k in other words corresponds to E. h, then 
you incur the severest punishment of science, your etymology is 
rejected, and you yourself are put outside the pale of serious 

In another respect phonetic laws may be compared with what 
we might call a Darwinian law in zoology, such as this : the fore- 
limbs of the common ancestor of mammals have developed into 
flippers in whales and into hands in apes and men. The simi- 
larity between both kinds of laws is not inconsiderable. A micro- 
scopic examination of whales, even an exact investigation by 
means of the eye alone, will reveal innumerable little deviations : 
no two flippers are exactly alike. And in the same way no two 
persons speak in exactly the same way. But the fact that we 
cannot in detail account for each of these nuances should not 
make us doubt that they are developed in a perfectly natural 
way, in accordance with the great law of causality, nor should we 
despair of the possibility of scientific treatment, even if some 
of the flippers and some of the sounds are not exactly what we 
should expect. A law of fore-limb development can only be 
deduced through such observation of many flippers as will single 
out what is typical of whales' flippers, and then a comparison 
with the typical fore-limbs of their ancestors or of their congeners 
among existing mammals And in the same way we do not find 
laws of phonetic development until, after leaving what can be 
examined as it were microscopically, we go on telescopically to 
examine languages which are far removed from each other in 
space or time : then small differences disappear, and we discover 
nothing but the great lines of a regular evolution which is the 
outcome of an infinite number of small movements in many 
different directions. 


XV. 14. Conclusion. 

It has been one of the leading thoughts in the two chapters 
devoted to the causes of linguistic change that phonetic changes, 
to be fully understood, should not be isolated from other changes, 
for in actual linguistic life we witness a constant interplay of 
sound and sense. Not only should each sound change be always 
as far as possible seen in connexion with other sound changes 
going on in the same period in the same language (as in the great 
vowel-raising in English), but the effects on the speech material 
as a whole should in each case be investigated, so as to show what 
homophones (if any) were produced, and what danger they 
entailed to the understanding of natural sentences. Sounds 
should never be isolated from the words in which they occur, nor 
words from sentences. No hard-and-fast boundary can be drawn 
between phonetic and non-phonetic changes. The psychological 
motives for both kinds of changes are the same in many cases, 
and the way in which both kinds spread through imitation is 
absolutely identical : what was said on this subject above (11) 
applies without the least qualification to any linguistic change, 
whether in sounds, in grammatical forms, in syntax, in the signi- 
fication of words, or in the adoption of new words and dropping 
of old ones. 

We shall here finally very briefly consider something which 
plays a certain part in the development of language, but which 
has not been adequately dealt with in what precedes, namely, 
the desire to play with language. We have already met with 
the effects of playfulness in one of the chapters devoted to children 
(p. 148) : here we shall see that the same tendency is also powerful 
in the language of grown-up people, though most among young 
people. There is a certain exuberance which will not rest con- 
tented with traditional expressions, but finds amusement in the 
creation and propagation of new words and in attaching new 
meanings to old words : this is the exact opposite of that linguistic 
poverty which we found was at the bottom of such minimum 
languages as Pidgin -English. We find it in the wealth of pet- 
names which lovers have for each other and mothers for their 
children, in the nicknames of schoolboys and of ' pals ' of later 
life, as well as in the perversions of ordinary words which at times 
become the fashion among small sets of people who are constantly 
thrown together and have plenty of spare time ; cf. also the ' little 
language ' of Swift and Stella. Most of these forms of speech 
have a narrow range and have only an ephemeral existence, but 
in the world of slang the same tendencies are constantly at work. 
Slang words are often confused with vulgarisms, though the 


two things are really different. The vulgar tongue is a class 
dialect, and a vulgarism is an element of the normal speech of 
low-class people, just as ordinary dialect words are elements of 
the natural speech of peasants in one particular district ; slang 
words, on the other hand, are words used in conscious contrast 
to the natural or normal speech : they can be found in all classes 
of society in certain moods, and on certain occasions when a speaker 
wants to avoid the natural or normal word because he thinks it 
too flat or uninteresting and wants to achieve a different effect 
by breaking loose from the ordinary expression. A vulgarism is 
what will present itself at once to the mind of a person belonging 
to one particular class ; a slang word is something that is wilfully 
substituted for the first word that will present itself. The dis- 
tinction will perhaps appear most clearly in the case of grammar : 
if a man says them boys instead of those boys, or knowed instead of 
knew, these are the normal forms of his language, and he knows 
no better, but the educated man looks down upon these forms 
as vulgar. Inversely, an educated man may amuse himself now 
and then by using forms which he perfectly well knows are not 
the received forms, thus wunk from wink, collode from collide, 
praught from preach (on the analogy of taught) ; " We handshook 
and candlestuck, as somebody said, and went to bed " (H. James). 
But, of course, slang is more productive in the lexical than in the 
grammatical portion of language. And there is something that 
makes it difficult in practice always to keep slang and vulgar speech 
apart, namely, that when a person wants to leave the beaten path 
of normal language he is not always particular as to the source 
whence he takes his unusual words, and he may therefore some- 
times take a vulgar word and raise it to the dignity of a slang word. 

A slang word is at first individual, but may through imitation 
become fashionable in certain sets ; after some time it may either 
be accepted by everybody as part of the normal language, or else, 
more frequently, be so hackneyed that no one finds pleasure in 
using it any longer. 

Slang words may first be words from the ordinary language 
used in a different sense, generally metaphorically. Sometimes 
we meet with the same figurative expression in the slang of various 
countries, as when the ' head ' is termed the upper story (upper 
loft, upper works) in English, everste etage in Danish, and oberstubchen 
in German ; more often different images are chosen in different 
languages, as when for the same idea we have nut or chump in 
English and pare (' pear ') in Danish, coco or ciboule (or boule) in 
French. Slang words of this character may in some instances give 
rise to expressions the origin of which is totally forgotten. In old 
slang there is an expression for the tongue, the red rag ; this ia 


shortened into the rag, and I suspect that the verb to rag, ' to scold, 
rate, talk severely to ' (" of obscure origin," NED), is simply from 
this substantive (cf . to jaw). 

Secondly, slang words may be words of the normal language 
used in their ordinary signification, but more or less modified in 
regard to form. Thus we have many shortened forms, exam, quad, 
pub, for examination, quadrangle, public-house, etc. Not unfre- 
quently the shortening process is combined with an extension, 
some ending being more or less arbitrarily substituted for the latter 
part of the word, as when football becomes footer, and Rugby foot- 
ball and Association football become Rugger and Socker, or when 
at Cambridge a freshman is called a fresher and a bedmaker a 

In schoolboys' slang (Harrow) there is an ending -agger which 
may be added instead of the latter part of any word ; about 1885 
Prince Albert Victor when at Cambridge was nicknamed the Prag- 
ger ; an Agnostic was called a Nogger, etc. I strongly suspect that 
the word swagger is formed in the same way from swashbuckler. 
Another schoolboys' ending is -g : fog, seg, lag, for ' first, second, 
last,' gag at Winchester for ' gathering ' (a special kind of Latin 
exercise). Charles Lamb mentions from Christ's Hospital crug for 
' a quarter of a loaf,' evidently from crust ; sog = sovereign, snag 
= snail (old), swig = swill ; words like fag, peg away, and others are 
perhaps to be explained from the same tendency. Arnold Bennett 
in one of his books says of a schoolboy that his vocabulary com- 
prised an extraordinary number of words ending in gs : foggs, 
seggs, for first, second, etc. It is interesting to note that in French 
argot there are similar endings added to more or less mutilated 
words : -ague, -ique, -oque (Sainean, U Argot ancien, 1907, 50 and 
especially 57). 

There is also a peculiar class of roundabout expressions in 
which the speaker avoids the regular word, but hints at it in a 
covert way by using some other word, generally a proper name, 
which bears a resemblance to it or is derived from it, really or 
seemingly. Instead of saying ' I want to go to bed,' he will say, 
' I am for Bedfordshire,' or in German ' Ich gehe nach Bethle 
hem ' or * nach Bettingen,' in Danish ' ga til Slumstrup, Sov- 
strup, Hvilsted.' Thus also 'send a person to Birching-lane,' 
i.e. to whip him, ' he has been at Hammersmith,' i.e. has been 
beaten, thrashed ; ' you are on the highway to Needham,' i.e. 
on the high-road to poverty, etc. (Cf. my paper on " Punning or 
Allusive Phrases " in Nord. Tidsskr. f. Fil. 3 r. 9. 66.) 

The language of poetry is closely related to slang, in so far as 
both strive to avoid commonplace and everyday expressions. 
The difference is that where slang looks only for the striking or 


unexpected expression, and therefore often is merely eccentric 
or funny (sometimes only would-be comic), poetry looks higher 
and craves abiding beauty beauty in thought as well as 
beauty in form, the latter obtained, among other things, by 
rhythm, alliteration, rime, and harmonious variety of vowel 

In some countries these forms tend to become stereotyped, 
and then may to some extent kill the poetic spirit, poetry becoming 
artificiality instead of art ; the later Skaldic poetry may serve 
as an illustration. Where there is a strong literary tradition 
and that may be found even where there is no written literature 
veneration for the old literature handed down from one's ancestors 
will often lead to a certain fossilization of the literary language, 
which becomes a shrine of archaic expressions that no one uses 
naturally or can master without great labour. If this state of 
things persists for centuries, it results in a cleavage between the 
spoken and the written language which cannot but have the most 
disastrous effects on all higher education : the conditions pre- 
vailing nowadays in Greece and in Southern India may serve as 
a warning. Space forbids me more than a bare mention of this 
topic, which would deserve a much fuller treatment ; for details 
I may refer to K. Krumbacher, Das Problem der neugriechischen 
Schriftsprache, Munich, 1902 (for the other side of the case see 
G. N. Hatzidakis, Die Sprachfrage in Gricchenland, Athens, 1905) 
and G. V. Ramamurti, A Memorandum on Modern Telugu, 
Madras, 1913. 




{1. Achievements. 2. Doubtful Cases. 3. Facts, not Fancies. 4. Hope 
5. Requirements. 6. Blendings. 7. Echo Words. 8. Some 
Conjunctions. 9. Object of Etymology. 10. Reconstruction. 

XVI. 1. Achievements. 

FEW things have been more often quoted in works on linguistics 
than Voltaire's mot that in etymology vowels count for nothing 
and consonants for very little. But it is now said just as often 
that the satire might be justly levelled at the pseudo-scientific 
etymology of the eighteenth century, but has no application to our 
own times, in which etymology knows how to deal with both 
vowels and consonants, and it should be added, though it is 
often forgotten with the meanings of words. One often comes 
across outbursts of joy and pride in the achievements of modern 
etymological science, like the following, which is quoted here instar 
omnium : " Nowadays etymology has got past the period of more 
or less ' happy thoughts ' (gliicklichen einfalle) and has developed 
into a science in which, exactly as in any other science, serious 
persevering work must lead to reliable results " (H. Schroder, 
Ablautstudien, 1910, X; cf. above, Max Muller and Whitney, p. 89). 
There is no denying that much has been achieved, but it is 
equally true that a skeptical mind cannot fail to be struck with 
the uncertainty of many proposed explanations : very often 
scholars have not got beyond ' happy thoughts,' many of which 
have not even been happy enough to have been accepted by 
anybody except their first perpetrators. From English alone, 
which for twelve hundred years has had an abundant written 
literature, and which has been studied by many eminent Linguists, 
who have had many sister-languages with which to com- 
pare it, it would be an easy matter to compile a long List of 
words, well-known words of everyday occurrence, which etymo- 
logists have had to give up as beyond their powers of solution 
(fit, put, putt, cut, rouse, pun, fun, job). And equally perp'exing 
are many words now current all over Europe, some of them 
comparatively recent and yet completely enigmatic : race, baron, 
baroque, rococo, zinc. 

20 806 

306 ETYMOLOGY [CH. xvi 

XVI. 2. Doubtful Cases. 

Or let us take a word of that class which forms the staple 
subject of etymological disquisitions, one in which the semantic 
side is literally as clear as sunshine, namely the word for ' sun.' 
Here we have, among others, the following forms : (1) sun, OE. 
sunne, Goth, sunno ; (2) Dan., Lat. sol, Goth, sauil, Gr. helios ; 
(3) OE. sigel, scegl, Goth, sugil ; (4) OSlav. slunlce, Russ. solnce 
(now with mute I). That these forms are related cannot be 
doubted, but their mutual relation, and their relation to Gr. selene, 
which means ' moon,' and to OE. swegel ' sky,' have never been 
cleared up. Holthausen derives sunno from the verb sinnan ' go ' 
and OE. sigel from the verb sigan ' descend, go down ' but is 
it really probable that our ancestors should have thought of the 
sun primarily as the one that goes, or that sets ? The word south 
(orig. *sun}> ; the n as in OHG. sund is still kept in Dan. senderi) 
is generally explained as connected with sun, and the meaning 
* sunny side ' is perfectly natural ; but now H. Schroder thinks 
that it is derived from a word meaning ' right ' (OE. swiftre, orig. 
' stronger,' a comparative of the adj. found in G. geschwind), 
and he says that the south is to the right when you look at the 
sun at sunrise which is perfectly true, but why should people 
have thought of the south as being to the right when they wanted 
to speak of it in the afternoon or evening ? 

Let me take one more example to show that our present methods, 
or perhaps our present data, sometimes leave us completely in the 
lurch with regard to the most ordinary words. We have a series 
of words which may all, without any formal difficulties, be referred 
to a root-form seqw-. Their significations are, respectively 

(1) ' say,' E. say, OE. secgan, ON. segja, G. sagen, Lith. sakyti. 

To this is referred Gr. ennepe, enispein, Lat. inseque 
and possibly inquam. 

(2) ' show, point out,' OSlav. sociti, Lat. signum. 

(3) ' see,' E. see, OE. seon, Goth, saihwan, G. sehen, etc. 

(4) ' follow,' Lat. sequor, Gr. hepomai, Skr. sdcate. Here 

belongs Lat. socius, OE. secg ' man,' orig. ' follower.' 
Now, are these four groups ' etymologically identical ' ? 
Opinions differ widely, as may be seen from C. D. Buck, " Words 
of Speaking and Saying " (Am. Journ. of Philol. 36. 128, 1915). 
They may be thus tabulated, a comma meaning supposed identity 
and a dash the opposite : 

1, 2-3, 4 Kluge, Falk, Torp. 
1, 2, 3-4 Brugmann. 
1, 2, 3, 4 Wood, Buck. 1 

1 With regard to Lat. signum it should be noted that it is by othera 
explained as coming from Lat. secure and as meaning a notch. 


For the transition in meaning from ' see ' to ' say ' we are 
referred to such words as observe, notice, G. bemerkung, while in 
G. anweisen, and still more in Lat. dico, there is a similar transition 
from ' show ' to ' say.' Wood derives the signification ' follow ' 
from ' point out,' through ' show, guide, attend.' With regard 
to the relation between 3 and 4, it has often been said that to see 
is to follow with the eyes. In short, it is possible, if you take 
some little pains, to discover notional ties between all four groups 
which may not be so very much looser than those between other 
words which everybody thinks related. And yet ? I cannot see 
that the knowledge we have at present enables us, or can enable 
us, to do more than leave the mutual relation of these groups an 
open question. One man's guess is just as good as another's, or 
one man's yes as another man's no if the connexion of these 
words is ' science,' it is, if I may borrow an expression from the 
old archaeologist Samuel Pegge, scientia ad libitum. Personal 
predilection and individual taste have not been ousted from 
etymological research to the extent many scholars would have 
us believe. 

Or we may perhaps say that among the etymologies found in 
dictionaries and linguistic journals some are solid and firm as 
rocks, but others are liquid and fluctuate like the sea ; and finally 
not a few are in a gaseous state and blow here and there as the 
wind listeth. Some of them are no better than poisonous gases, 
from which may Heaven preserve us ! l 

XVI. 3. Facts, not Fancies. 

As early as 1867 Michel Breal, in an excellent article (reprinted 
in M 267 ff.), called attention to the dangers resulting from the 
general tendency of comparative linguists to " jump intermediate 
steps in order at once to mount to the earliest stages of the lan- 
guage," but his warning has not taken effect, so that etymologists 
in dealing with a word found only in comparatively recent times 
will often try to reconstruct what might have been its Proto- 
Aryan form and compare that with some word found in some 
other language. Thus, Falk and Torp refer G. krieg to an Aryan 
primitive form *greigho~, *grigho-, which is compared with Irish 

1 It is, of course, impossible to say how great a proportion of the 
etymologies given in dictionaries should strictly be classed under each of 
the following heads : (1) certain, (2) probable, (3) possible, (4) improbable, 
(5) impossible but I am afraid the first two classes would be the least 
numerous. Meillet (Gr 59) has some excellent remarks to the same effect ; 
according to him, " pour une etymologic sure, les dictionnaires en offrent 
plus de dix qui sont douteuses et dont, en appliquant une methods rigoureuee, 
on ne saurait iaire la preuve." 


brig * force.' But the German word is not found in use till the 
middle period ; it is peculiar to German and unknown in related 
languages (for the Scandinavian and probably also the Dutch 
words are later loans from Germany). These writers do not take 
into account how improbable it is that such a word, if it were 
really an old traditional word for this fundamental idea, should 
never once have been recorded in any of the old documents of the 
whole of our family of languages. What should we think of the 
man who would refer boche, the French nickname for ' German ' 
which became current in 1914, and before that time had only been 
used for a few years and known to a few people only, to a Proto- 
Aryan root-form ? Yet the method in both cases is identical ; 
it presupposes what no one can guarantee, that the words in 
question are of those which trot along the royal road of language 
for century after century without a single side-jump, semantic 
or phonetic. Such words are the favourites of linguists because 
they have always behaved themselves since the days of Noah ; 
but others are full of the most unexpected pranks, which no 
scientific ingenuity can discover if we do not happen to know the 
historical facts. Think of grog, for example. Admiral Vernon, 
known to sailors by the nickname of " Old Grog " because he wore 
a cloak of grogram (this, by the way, from Fr. gros grain), in 1740 
ordered a mixture of rum and water to be served out instead 
of pure rum, and the name was transferred from the person 
to the drink. If it be objected that such leaps are found 
only in slang, the answer is that slang words very often become 
recognized after some time, and who knows but that may 
have been the case with krieg just as well as with many a 
recent word ? 

At any rate, facts weigh more than fancies, and whoever wants 
to establish the etymology of a word must first ascertain all the 
historical facts available with regard to the place and time of 
its rise, its earliest signification and syntactic construction, its 
diffusion, the synonyms it has ousted, etc. Thus, and thus only, 
can he hope to rise above loose conjectures. Here the great 
historical dictionaries, above all the Oxford New English Dictionary, 
render invaluable service. And let me mention one model article 
outside these dictionaries, in which Hermann Moller has in my 
opinion given a satisfactory solution of the riddle of G. gam : 
he explains it as a loan from Slav konlci 'end,' used especially 
adverbially (perhaps with a preposition in the form v-konec or 
v-konc) ' to the end, completely ' ; Slav c = G. z, Slav k pronounced 
essentially as South G. g ; the gradual spreading and various 
significations and derived forms are accounted for with very great 
learning (Zs. /. D. Alt. 36. 326 ff.). It is curious that this article 


should have been generally overlooked or neglected, though the 
writer seems to have met all the legitimate requirements of a 
scientific etymology. 

XVL 4. Hope. 

I have endeavoured to fulfil these requirements in the new 
explanation I have given of the word hope (Dan. hdbe, Swed. 
hoppas, G. hoffen), now used in all Gothonic tongues in exactly 
the same signification. Etymologists are at variance about this 
word. Kluge connects it with the OE. noun hyht, and from that 
form infers that Gothonic *hopon stands for *huqdn, from an Aryan 
root leug ; he says that a connexion with Lat. cupio is scarcely 
possible. Walde likewise rejects connexion between cupio and 
either hope or Goth, hugjan. To Falk and Torp hope has probably 
nothing to do with hyht, but probably with cupio, which is derived 
from a root *kup = kvap, found in Lat. vapor ' steam,' and with 
a secondary form *kub, in hope, and *kvab in Goth, af-huxipjan 

* choke ' a wonderful medley of significations. H. Holler 
(Indoeur.-Semit. sammenlignende Glossar 63), in accordance with 
his usual method, establishes an Aryo-Semitic root *k-u-, meaning 

* ardere ' and transferred to ' ardere amore, cupiditate, desiderio,' 
the root being extended with 6- : p- in hope and cupio, with gh- 
in Goth, hugs, and with g- in OE. hyht. Surely a typical example 
of the perplexity of our etymologists, who disagree in everything 
except just in the one thing which seems to me extremely doubtful, 
that hope with the present spiritual signification goes back to 
common Aryan. Now, what are the real facts of the matter ? 
Simply these, that the word hope turns up at a comparatively 
late date in historical times at one particular spot, and from there 
it gradually spreads to the neighbouring countries. In Denmark 
(hdb, hdbe) and in Sweden (hopp, hoppas) it is first found late in the 
Middle Ages as a religious loan from Low German hope, hopen. 
High German hoffen is found very rarely about 1150, but does 
not become common till a hundred years later ; it is undoubtedly 
taken (with sound substitution) from Low German and moves 
in Germany from north to south. Old Saxon has the subst. to-hopa, 
which has probably come from OE., where we have the sama 
form for the subst., to-hopa. This is pretty common in religious 
prose, but in poetry it is found only once (Boet.) a certain indi- 
cation that the word is recent. The subst. without to is com- 
paratively late (JEUric, ab. 1000). The verb is found in rare 
instances about a hundred years earlier, but does not become 
common till later. Now, it is important to notice that the verb in 
the old period never takes a direct object, but is always connected 

310 ETYMOLOGY [CH. xvi 

with the preposition to (compare the subst.), even in modern 
usage we have to hope, to, for, in. Similarly in G., where the phrase 
was auf etwas hoffen ; later the verb took a genitive, then a pronoun 
in the accusative, and finally an ordinary object ; in biblical 
language we find also zu gott hoffen. Now, I would connect our 
word with the form hopu, found twice as part of a compound in 
Beowulf (450 and 764), where ' refuge ' gives good sense : hopan to, 
then, is to ' take one's refuge to,' and to-hopa ' refuge.' This verb 
I take to be at first identical with hop (the only OE. instance I 
know of this is JSlfric, Horn. 1. 202 : hoppode ongean his drihten). 
We have also one instance of a verb onhupian (Cum Past. 441) 
' draw back, recoil,' which agrees with ON. hopa ' move back- 
wards ' (to the quotations in Fritzner may be added Laxd. 49, 15, 
J?eir Osvigssynir hopudu undan). 1 The original meaning seems 
to have been ' bend, curb, bow, stoop,' either in order to leap, 
or to flee, from something bad, or towards something good ; 
cf. the subst. hip, OE. hype, Goth, hups, Dan. hofte, G. kiifte, Lat. 
cubitus, etc. (Holthausen, Anglia Beibl., 1904, 350, deals with 
these words, but does not connect them with hop, -hopu, or hope.) 
The transition from bodily movement to the spiritual ' hope ' may 
have been favoured by the existence of the verb OE. hogian 
' think,' but is not in itself more difficult than with, e.g., Lat. 
ex(s)ultare ' leap up, rejoice,' or Dan. lide pa ' lean to, confide in, 
trust,' tillid ' confidence, reliance ' ; and a new word for ' hope ' 
was required because the old wen (Goth, wens), vb. wenan, had 
at an early age acquired a more general meaning ' opinion, 
probability,' vb. ' suppose, imagine.' The difficulty that the 
word for ' hope ' has single or short p (in Swed., however, pp), 
while hop, OE. hoppian, has double or long p, is no serious 
hindrance to our etymology, because the gemination may easily 
be accounted for on the principle mentioned below (Ch. XX 
9), that is, as giving a more vivid expression of the rapid 

XVI. 5. Requirements. 

It is, of course, impossible to determine once for all by hard- 
and-fast rules how great the correspondence must be for us to 
recognize two words as * etymologically identical,' nor to say 
to which of the two sides, the phonetic and the semantic, we 
should attach the greater importance. With the rise of historical 
phonology the tendency has been to require exact correspondence 
in the former respect, and in semantics to be content with 
more or less easily found parallels. One example will show how 

* Westphalian also has happen ' zuruckweicheu/ ESt. 54. 88. 


particular many scholars are in matters of sound. The word nut 
(OE. hnutu, G. nuss, ON. hnot, Dan. nmd} is by Paul declared " not 
related to Lat. mix " and by Kluge " neither originally akin with 
nor borrowed from Lat. nux," while the NED does not even mention 
nux and thus must think it quite impossible to connect it with 
the English word. We have here in two related languages two 
words resembling each other not only in sound, but in stem- 
formation and gender, and possessing exactly the same signification, 
which is as concrete and definite as possible. And yet we are 
bidden to keep them asunder ! Fortunately I am not the first 
to protest against such barbarity : H. Pedersen (KZ n.f. 12. 251) 
explains both words from *dnuk-, which by metathesis has 
become *knud-, while Falk and Torp as well as Walde thin' 
the latter form the original one, which in Latin has been 
shifted into *dnuk-. Which of these views is correct (both may 
be wrong) is of less importance than the victory of common 
sense over phonological pedantry. 

There are two explanations which have had very often to do 
duty where the phonological correspondence is not exact, namely 
root-variation (root-expansion with determinatives) and apophony 
(ablaut). Of the former Uhlenbeck (PBB 30. 252) says : " The 
theory of root determinatives no doubt contains a kernel of truth, 
but it has only been fatal to etymological science, as it has drawn 
the attention from real correspondences between well-substantiated 
words to delusive similarities between hypothetical abstractions." 
Apophony inspires more confidence, and in many cases offers fully 
reliable explanations ; but this principle, too, has been often 
abused, and it is difficult to find its true limitations. Many special 
applications of it appear questionable ; thus, when G. stumm, Dan. 
stum, is explained as an apophonic form of the adj. stam, Goth. 
stamms, from which we have the verb stammer, G. stammdn, Dan. 
stamme : is it really probable that the designation of muteness 
should be taken from the word for stammering ? This appears 
especially improbable when we consider that at the time when 
the new word stumm made its appearance there was already another 
word for ' mute,' namely dumm, dumb, the word which has been 
preserved in English. I therefore propose a new etymology : 
stumm is a blending of the two synonyms still(e) and dum(b), made 
up of the beginning of the one and the ending of the other word ; 
through adopting the initial st- the word was also associated with 
stump, and we get an exact correspondence between dumm, dum, 
stumm, stum, applied to persons, and dumpf, stumpf, Dan. dump, 
stump, applied to things. Note that in those languages (G., Dan.) 
in which the new word stum(m) was used, the unchanged dum(m) 
was free to develop the new sense ' stupid ' (or was the creation 

312 ETYMOLOGY [CH. xvi 

of stum occasioned by the old word tending already to acquire 
this secondary meaning ?), while dumb in English stuck to the 
old signification. 

XVI. 6. Blendings. 

Blendings of synonyms play a much greater r61e in the develop- 
ment of language than is generally recognized. Many instances 
may be heard in everyday life, most of them being immediately 
corrected by the speaker (see above, XV 4), but these momentary 
lapses cannot be separated from other instances which are of 
more permanent value because they are so natural that they will 
occur over and over again until speakers will hardly feel the blend 
as anything else than an ordinary word. M. Bloomfield (IF 4. 71) 
says that he has been many years conscious of an irrepressible 
desire to assimilate the two verbs quench and squelch in both 
directions by forming squench and quelch, and he has found the 
former word in a negro story by Page. The expression ' irre- 
pressible desire ' struck me on reading this, for I have myself in 
my Danish speech the same feeling whenever I am to speak of 
tending a patient, for I nearly always say plasse as a result of 
wavering between pleje [pZaia] and passe. Many examples may be 
found in G. A. Bergstrom, On Blendings of Synonymous or Cognate 
Expressions in English, Lund, 1906, and Louise Pound, Blends, 
Their Relation to English Word Formation, Heidelberg, 1914. But 
neither of these two writers has seen the full extent of this principle 
of formation, which explains many words of greater importance 
than those nonce words which are found so plentifully in Miss 
Pound's paper. Let me give some examples, some of them new, 
Borne already found by others : 

blot = &Zemish, 6Zack + spot, plot, dot ; there is also an 

obsolete splot. 
blunt = 6/ind + stunt. 

crouch = cringe, crook, crawl, fcrowk + couch, 
flush = flash + blush, 
frush = frog -\- thrush (all three names of the same disease 

in a horse's foot). 
glaze (Shakespeare) = glare -f- gaze, 
good-bye = good-night, good-morning + godbye (God be with 


knoll = knell -f- toll. 

scroll = scrow + roll. 

slash = sZay, sling, sZat -f gosh, dash. 

slender = slight (slim) + tender. 


Such blends are especially frequent in words expressive of 
sounds or in some other way symbolical, as, for instance : 

flurry = fling, flo-w and many other fl -words + hurry (note 

also scurry). 

gruff = grum, grim -f rough, 
slide = slip + glide, 
troll = trill -f rott (in some senses perhaps rather from 

fread, trundle -f roll), 
twirl = twist -f whirl. 

In slang blends abound, e.g. : 

tosh (Harrow) = tub + wash. (Sometimes explained as 

blarmed = blamed* fctessed and other 6Z-words + darned 


be danged = damned -f hanged. 
I swow = swear -j- \ow. 
brunch = frreakfast -f lunch (so also, though more rarely 

brupper ( . . . + supper), tunch (tea + lunch), tupper 

= tea -f supper). 1 

XVI. 7. Echo-words. 

Most etymologists are very reluctant to admit echoism ; thus 
Diez rejects onomatopoeic origin of It. pisciare, FT. pisser an 
echo-word if ever there was one and says, " One can easily go too 
far in supposing onomatopoeia : as a rule it is more advisable to 
build on existing words " ; this he does by deriving this verb from 
a non-existing *pipisare, pipsare, from pipa ' pipe, tube.' Falk 
and Torp refer dump (Dan. dumpe) to Swed. dimpa, a Gothonic 
root demp, supposed to be an extension of an Aryan root dhen : 
thus they are too deaf to hear the sound of the heavy fall expressed 
by um(p), cf. Dan. bumpe, bums, plumpe, skumpe, jumpe, and 
similar words in other languages. 

It may be fancy, but I think I hear the same sound in Lat. 
plumbum, which I take to mean at first not the metal, but the 
plummet that was dumped or plumped into the water and was 
denominated from the sound ; as this was generally made of lead, 
the word came to be used for the metal. Most etymologists take 
it for granted that plumbum is a loan-word, some being honest 
enough to confess that they do not know from what language, 
while others without the least scruple or hesitation say that it 
was taken from Iberian : our ignorance of that language is so 

1 Lewis Carrol's ' portmanteau words ' are of course, famous. 

814 ETYMOLOGY [CH. xvi 

deep that no one can enter an expert's protest against such a 
supposition. 1 But if my hypothesis is right, the words plummet 
(from OFr. plommet, a diminutive of plomb) as well as the verb 
FT. plonger, whence E. plunge, from Lat. *plumbicare, are not 
only derivatives from plumbum (the only thing mentioned by other 
scholars), but also echo-words, and they, or at any rate the verb, 
must to a great extent owe their diffusion to their felicitously 
symbolic sound. In a novel I find : " Plump went the lead " 
showing how this sound is still found adequate to express the 
falling of the lead in sounding. The NED says under the verb 
plump : " Some have compared L. plumbare ... to throw the 
lead-line . . . but the approach of form between plombar and the 
LG. plump-plomp group seems merely fortuitous " (!). I see 
sound symbolism in all the words plump, while the NED will only 
allow it in the most obvious cases. From the sound of a body 
plumping into the water we have interesting developments in the 
adverb, as in the following quotations : I said, plump out, that 
I couldn't stand any more of it (Bernard Shaw) | The famous 
diatribe against Jesuitism points plumb in the same direction 
(Morley) | fall plum into the jaws of certain critics (Swift) | Nollie 
was a plumb little idiot (Galsworthy). In the last sense ' entirely ' 
it is especially frequent in America, e.g. They lost their senses, 
plumb lost their senses (Churchill) | she's plum crazy, it's plum 
bad, etc. Related words for fall, etc., are plop, plout, plunk, 
plounce. Much might also be said in this connexion of various 
pop and 606 words, but I shall refrain. 

XVI. 8. Some Conjunctions. 

Sometimes obviously correct etymologies yet leave some psycho- 
logical points unexplained. One of my pet theories concerns some 
adversative conjunctions. Lat. sed has been supplanted by 
magis : It. ma, Sp. mas, Fr. mais. The transition is easily accounted 
for ; from ' more ' it is no far cry to ' rather ' (cf . G. vielmehr), 
which can readily be employed to correct or gainsay what has 
just been said. The Scandinavian word for ' but ' is men, which 
came into use in the fifteenth century and is explained as a blending 

1 Speculation has been rife, but without any generally accepted results, 
as to the relation between plumbum and words for the same metal in cognate 
languages : Gr. molibos, molubdos and similar forms, Ir. luaide, E. lead (G. 
lot, ' plummet, half an ounce '), Scand. bly, OSlav. olovo, OPruss. alwis ; see 
Curtius, Prellwitz, Boisacq, Hirt Idg. 686, Schrader Sprachvergl. u. Urgesch., 
3d. ed., ii. 1. 95 ; Herm. Mailer, Sml. Qlossar 87, says that molibos and 
plumbum are extensions of the root m-l ' mollis esse ' and explains the differ- 
ence between the initial sounds by referring to multum : comp. plus certainly 
most ingenious, but not convincing. Some of these words may originally 
have been echo -words for the plumping plummet. 


of meden in its shortened form men (now mens) ' while ' and Low 
German men ' but,' which stands for older niwan, from the negative 
ni and wan ' wanting ' ; the meaning has developed through that 
of ' except ' and the sound is easily understood as an instance of 
assimilation. The same phonetic development is found in Dutch 
maar, OFris. mar, from en ware ' were not,' the same combination 
which has yielded G. nur. Thus we have four different ways of 
getting to expressions for ' but,' none of which presents the least 
difficulty to those familiar with the semantic ways of words. But 
why did these various nations seize on new words ? Weren't the 
old ones good enough ? 

Here I must call attention to two features that are common 
to these new conjunctions, first their syntactic position, which 
is invariably in the beginning of the sentence, while such synony- 
mous words as Lat. autem and G. aber may be placed after one 
or more words ; then their phonetic agreement in one point : magis, 
men, maar all begin with m. Now, both these features are found 
in two words for ' but,' about whose etymological origin I can 
find no information, Finnic mutta and Santal menkhan, as well as 
in me, which is used in the Ancrene Riwle and a few other early 
Middle English texts and has been dubiously connected with the 
Scandinavian (and French ?) word. How are we to explain these 
curious coincidences ? I think by the nature of the sound [m], 
which is produced when the lips are closed while the tongue rests 
passively and the soft palate is lowered so as to allow air to escape 
through the nostrils in short, the position which is typical of 
anybody who is quietly thinking over matters without as yet 
saying anything, with the sole difference that in his case the vocal 
chords are passive, while they are made to vibrate to bring forth 
an m 

Now, it very often happens that a man wants to say something, 
but has not yet made up his mind as to what to say ; and in this 
moment of hesitation, while thoughts are in the process of con- 
ception, the lungs and vocal chords will often be prematurely 
set going, and the result is [m] (sometimes preceded by the cor- 
responding voiceless sound), often written hm or h'm, which thus 
becomes the interjection of an unshaped contradiction. Not 
infrequently this [m] precedes a real word ; thus M'yes (written 
in this way by Shaw, Misalliance 154, and Merrick, Conrad 179) 
and Dan. mja, to mark a hesitating consent. 

This will make it clear why words beginning with m are so 
often chosen as adversative conjunctions: people begin with this 
sound and go on with some word that gives good sen.-e and which 
happens to begin with m : mais, maar. The Dan. men in the 
mouth of some early speakers is probably this [m]. sliding into 

316 ETYMOLOGY [CH. xvi 

the old conjunction en, just as myes is TO + yes ; while other original 
users of men may have been thinking of men = meden, and others 
again of Low German men : these three etymologies are not 
mutually destructive, for all three origins may have concurrently 
contributed to the popularity of men. Modern Greek and Serbian 
ma are generally explained as direct loans from Italian, but may 
be indigenous, as may also dialectal Rumanian ma in the same 
sense, for in the hesitating [m] as the initial sound of objections 
we have one of those touches of nature which make the whole 
world kin. 1 

XVI. 9. Object of Etymology. 

What is the object of etjonological science ? " To determine 
the true signification of a word," answers one of the masters of 
etymological research (Walde, Lat. et. Worterb. xi). But surely 
in most cases that can be achieved without the help of etymology. 
We know the true sense of hundreds of words about the etymology 
of which we are in complete ignorance, and we should know exactly 
what the word grog means, even if the tradition of its origin had 
been accidentally lost. Many people still believe that an account 
of the origin of a name throws some light on the essence of the 
thing it stands for ; when they want to define say ' religion ' or 
' civilization,' they start by stating the (real or supposed) origin 
of the name but surely that is superstition, though the first framers 
of the name ' etymology ' (from Gr. etumon ' true ') must have had 
the same idea in their heads. Etymology tells us nothing about 
the things, nor even about the present meaning of a word, but 
only about the way in which a word has come into existence. 
At best, it tells us not what is true, but what has been true. 

The overestimation of etymology is largely attributable to 
the " conviction that there can be nothing in language that had 
not an intelligible purpose, that there is nothing that is now 
irregular that was not at first regular, nothing irrational that was 
not originally rational " (Max Miiller) a conviction which is still 
found to underlie many utterances about linguistic matters, but 
which reader? of the present volume will have seen is erroneous 
in many ways. On the whole, Max Miiller naively gives expression 
to what is unconsciously at the back of much that is said and 
believed about language ; thus, when he says (L 1 . 44) : " I must 
ask you at present to take it for granted that everything in language 
had originally a meaning. As language can have no other object 
but to express our meaning, it might seem to follow almost by 

1 I have discussed this more in detail and added other m-words of a 
somewhat related character in Studier tillcgnadc E. Tegner, 1918, p. 49 ff- 


necessity that language should contain neither more nor less than 
what is required for that purpose." Yes, so it would if language 
had been constructed by an omniscient and omnipotent being, 
but as it was developed by imperfect human beings, there is every 
possibility of their having failed to achieve their purpose and 
having done either more or less than was required to express 
their meaning. It would be wrong to say that language (i.e. 
speaking man) created first what was strictly necessary, and after- 
wards what might be considered superfluous ; but it would be 
equally wrong to say that linguistic luxuries were always created 
before necessaries ; yet that view would probably be nearer the 
truth than the former. Much of what in former ages was felt 
to be necessary to express thoughts was afterwards felt as pedantic 
crisscross and gradually eliminated ; but at all times many things 
have been found in language that can never have been anything 
else but superfluous, exactly as many people use a great many 
superfluous gestures which are not in the least significant and in 
no way assist the comprehension of their intentions, but which 
they somehow feel an impulse to perform. In language, as in 
life generally, we have too little in some respects, and too much 
in others. 

XVI. 10. Reconstruction. 

Kluge somewhere (PBB 37. 479, 1911) says that the establish- 
ment of the common Aryan language is the chief task of our 
modern science of linguistics (to my mind it can never be more 
than a fragment of that task, which must be to understand the 
nature of language), and he thinks optimistically that " recon- 
structions with their reliable methods have taken so firm root 
that we are convinced that we know the common Aryan grund- 
sprache just as thoroughly as any language that is more or less 
authenticated through literature." This is a palpable exaggera- 
tion, for no one nowadays has the courage of Schleicher to print 
even the smallest fable in Proto-Aryan, and if by some miraculous 
accident we were to find a text written in that language we may 
be sure it would puzzle us just as much as Tokharian does. 

Reconstruction has two sides, an outer and an inner. With 
regard to sounds, it seems to me that very often the masters of 
linguistics treat us to reconstructed forms that are little short 
of impossible. This is not the place to give a detailed criticism 
of the famous theory of ' nasalis sonans,' but I hope elsewhere 
to be able to state why I think this theory a disfiguring ex- 
crescence on linguistic science : no one has ever been able to find 
in any existing language such forms as mnto with stressed syllabic 

818 ETYMOLOGY [CH. xvi 

[n], given as the old form of our word mouth (Falk and Torp even 
give stmnto in order to connect the word with Gr. stoma), or as 
dkmtdm (whence Lat. centum, etc.) or bhrghnties or giimskete 
(Brugmann). Not only are these forms phonetically impossible, 
but the theory fails to explain the transitions to the forms actually 
existing in real languages, and everything is much easier if we 
assume forms like [ADI, An] with some vowel like that of E un-. 
The use in Proto-Aryan reconstructions of non-syllabic i and u also 
in some respects invites criticism, but it will be better to treat 
these questions in a special paper. 

Semantic reconstruction calls for little comment here. It is 
evident from the nature of the subject that no such strict rules 
can be given in tliis domain as in the domain of sound ; but now- 
adays scholars are more realistic than formerly. Most of them 
will feel satisfied when moon and month are associated with words 
having the same two significations in related languages, without 
indulging in explanations of both from a root me ' to measure ' ; 
and when our daughter has been connected with Gr. thugdter, 
Skt. duhitdr and corresponding words in other languages, no attempt 
is made to go beyond the meaning common to these words 
* daughter ' and to speculate what had induced our ancestors to 
bestow that word on that particular relation, as when Lassen 
derived it from the root duh ' to milk ' and pictured an idyllic 
family life, in which it was the business of the young girls to milk 
the cows, or when Fick derived the same word from the root dheugh 
' to be useful ' (G. taugen : ' wie die magd, maid von mogen '), as 
if the daughters were the only, or the most, efficient members 
of the family. Unfortunately, such speculations are still found 
lingering in many recent handbooks of high standing : Kluge 
hesitates whether to assign the word mutter, mother, to the root 
ma in the sense ' mete out ' or in the sense found in Sanskrit ' to 
form,' used of the foetus in the womb. A resigned acquiescence 
in inevitable ignorance and a sense of reality should certainly be 
characteristics of future etymologists. 


1. Linguistic Estimation. 2. Degeneration ? 3. Appreciation of Modern 
Tongues. 4. The Scientific Attitude. 5. Final Answer. 6. 
Sounds. 7. Shortenings. 8. Objections. Result. 9. Verbal 
Forms. 10. Synthesis and Analysis. 11. Verbal Concord. 

XVH. 1. Linguistic Estimation. 

THE common belief of linguists that one form or one expression 
is just as good as another, provided they are both found in actual 
use, and that each language is to be considered a perfect vehicle 
for the thoughts of the nation speaking it, is in some ways the 
exact counterpart of the conviction of the Manchester school of 
economics that everything is for the best in the best of all possible 
worlds if only no artificial hindrances are put in the way of free 
exchange, for demand and supply will regulate everything better 
than any Government would be able to. Just as economists were 
blind to the numerous cases in which actual wants, even crying 
wants, were not satisfied, so also linguists were deaf to those in- 
stances which are, however, obvious to whoever has once turned 
his attention to them, in which the very structure of a language 
calls forth misunderstandings in everyday conversation, and in 
which, consequently, a word has to be repeated or modified or 
expanded or defined in order to call forth the idea intended by 
the speaker : he took his stick no, not John's, but his cnrn ; 
or : I mean you in the plural) or, you all, or you girls) ; no, a 
box on the ear ; un de a jouer, non pas un de a coudre ; nein, ich 
meine Sie personlich (with very strong stress on Sie), etc. Every 
careful writer in any language has had the experience A hat on 
re-reading his manuscript he has discovered that a sentence which 
he thought perfectly clear when he wrote it lends itself to mis- 
understanding and has to be put in a different way ; sometimes 
he has to add a clarifying parenthesis, because his language is 
defective in some respect, as when Edward Carpenter (Art of 
Creation 171), in speaking of the deification of the Babe, writes: 
"It is not likely that Man the human male left to himsell 
would have done this ; but to woman it was natural," thus avoiding 
the misunderstanding that he was speaking of the whole specie^ 



comprising both sexes. Herbert Spencer writes : " Charles had 
recently obtained a post in the Post Office I was about to say, 
but the cacophony stopped me ; and then I was about to say, 
an office in the Post Office, which is nearly as bad ; let me say 
a place in the Post Office " (Autobiogr. 2. 73 but of course the 
defect is not really one of sound, as implied by the expression 
' cacophony,' but one of signification, as both words post and 
office are ambiguous, and the attempted collocation would therefore 
puzzle the reader or hearer, because the same word would have 
to be apprehended in two different senses in close succession). 
Similar instances might be alleged from any language. 

No language is perfect, but if we admit this truth (or truism), 
we must also admit by implication that it is not unreasonable 
to investigate the relative value of different languages or of different 
details in languages. When comparative linguists set themselves 
against the narrowmindedness of classical scholars who thought 
Latin and Greek the only worthy objects of study, and emphasized 
the value of all, even the least literary languages and dialects, 
they were primarily thinking of their value to the scientist, who 
finds something of interest in each of them, but they had no idea 
of comparing the relative value of languages from the point of 
view of their users and yet the latter comparison is of much 
greater importance than the former. 

XVH. 2. Degeneration? 

People will often use the expressions ' evolution ' and ' develop- 
ment ' in connexion with language, but most linguists, when taken 
to task, will maintain that these expressions as applied to languages 
should be used without the implication which is commonly attached 
to them when used of other objects, namely, that there is a pro- 
gressive tendency towards something better or nearer perfection. 
They will say that ' evolution ' means here simply changes going 
on in languages, without any judgment as to the value of these 

But those who do pronounce such a judgment nearly always 
take the changes as a retrogressive rather than a progressive 
development : " Tongues, like governments, have a natural ten- 
dency to degeneration," said Dr. Samuel Johnson in the Preface 
to his Dictionary, and the same lament has been often repeated 
since his time. This is quite natural : people have always had 
a tendency to believe in a golden age, that is, in a remote past 
gloriously different to the miserable present. Why not, then, 
have the same belief with regard to language, the more so because 
one cannot fail to notice things in contemporary speech which 


(superficially at any rate) look like corruptions of the ' good old ' 
forms? Everything 'old' thus comes to be considered 'good.' 
Lowell and others think they have justified many of the commonly 
reviled Americanisms if they are able to show them to have existed 
in England in the sixteenth century, and similar considerations 
are met with everywhere. The same frame of mind finds support 
in the usual grammar-school admiration for the two classical 
languages and their literatures. People were taught to look 
down upon modern languages as mere dialects or patois and to 
worship Greek and Latin ; the richness and fullness of forms found 
in those languages came naturally to be considered the very beau 
idled of linguistic structure. Bacon gives a classical expression 
to this view when he declares " ingenia priorum seculorum nostris 
fuisse multo acutiora et subtiliora " (De augm. scient. 1 ). To men 
fresh from the ordinary grammar-school training, no language 
would seem really respectable that had not four or five distinct 
cases and three genders, or that had less than five tenses and as 
many moods in its verbs. Accordingly, such poor languages as 
had either lost much of their original richness in grammatical 
forms (e.g. French, English, or Danish), or had never had any, so 
far as one knew (e.g. Chinese), were naturally looked upon with 
something of the pity bestowed on relatives in reduced circum- 
stances, or the contempt felt for foreign paupers. It is well known 
how in West-European languages, in English, German, Danish, 
Swedish, Dutch, French, etc., obsolete forms were artificially kept 
alive and preferred to younger forms by most grammarians ; but 
we see exactly the same point of view in such a language as Magyar, 
where, under the influence of the historical studies of the grammarian 
Revai, the belief in the excellence of the ' veneranda antiquitas ' 
as compared with the corruption of the modern language has 
been prevalent in schools and in literature. (See Simonyi US 259 ; 
cf. on Modern Greek and Telugu above, p. 301.) 

Comparative linguists had one more reason for adopting this 
manner of estimating languages. To what had the great victories 
won by their science been due ? Whence had they got the material 
for that magnificent edifice which had proved spacious enough 
to hold Hindus and Persians, Lithuanians and Slavs, Greeks, 
Romans, Germans and Kelts ? Surely it was neither from 
Modern English nor Modern Danish, but from the oldest stages of 
each linguistic group. The older a linguistic document was, the 

1 Quoted here from John Wilkina, An Essay towards a Real Character 
and a Philosophical Language, 1668, p. 448 : Wilkina there subjects Bacon'a 
saying to a crushing criticism, laying bare a great many radical deficiencies 
in Latin to bring out the logical advantages of his own artificial ' philo- 
sophical ' language. 



more valuable it was to the first generation of comparative linguists. 
An English form like had was of no great use, but Gothic habaide- 
deima was easily picked to pieces, and each of its several elements 
lent itself capitally to comparison with Sanskrit, Lithuanian and 
Greek. The linguist was chiefly dependent for his material on 
the old and archaic languages ; his interest centred round their 
fuller forms : what wonder, then, if in his opinion those languages 
were superior to all others ? What wonder if by comparing had 
and habaidedeima he came to regard the English form as a mutilated 
and worn-out relic of a splendid original ? or if, noting the change 
from the old to the modern form, he used strong language and 
spoke of degeneration, corruption, depravation, decline, phonetic 
decay, etc. ? 

The view that the modern languages of Europe, Persia and 
India are far inferior to the old languages, or the one old language, 
from which they descend, we have already encountered in the 
historical part of this work, in Bopp, Humboldt, Grimm and their 
followers. It looms very large in Schleicher, according to whom 
the history of language is all a Decline and Fall, and in Max Miiller, 
who says that " on the whole, the history of all the Aryan languages 
is nothing but a gradual process of decay." Nor is it yet quite 

XVn. 3. Appreciation o! Modern Tongues. 

Some scholars, however, had an indistinct feeling that this 
unconditional and wholesale depreciation of modern languages 
could not contain the whole truth, and I have collected various 
passages, nearly always of a perfunctory or incidental character, 
in which these languages are partly rehabilitated. Humboldt 
(Versch 284) speaks of the modern use of auxiliary verbs and 
prepositions as a convenience of the intellect which may even in 
some isolated instances lead to greater definiteness. On Grimm 
see above, p. 62. Rask (SA 1. 191) says that it is possible that the 
advantages of simplicity may be greater than those of an 
elaborate linguistic structure. Madvig turns against the uncritical 
admiration of the classical languages, but does not go further 
than saying that the modern analytical languages are just as 
good as the old synthetic ones, for thoughts can be expressed in 
both with equal clearness. Krauter (Archiv f, neu. spr. 57. 204) 
says . " That decay is consistent with clearness and precision 
is shown by French ; that it is not fatal to poetry is seen in the 
language of Shakespeare." Osthoff (Schriftspr. u. Volksmundart, 
1883, 13) protests against a one-sided depreciation of the language 
of Leasing and Goethe in favour of the language of Wullila or 


Otfried, or vice versa : a language possesses an inestimable charm 
if its phonetic system remains unimpaired and its etymologies 
are transparent ; but pliancy of the material of language and 
flexibility to express ideas is really no less an advantage ; every- 
thing depends on the point of view : the student of architecture 
has one point of view, the people who are to live in the house 

Among those who thus half-heartedly refused to accept the 
downhill theory to its full extent must be mentioned Whitney, 
many passages in whose writings show a certain hesitation to 
make up his mind on this question. When speaking of the loss 
of old forms he says that " some of these could well be spared, 
but others were valuable, and their relinquishment has impaired 
the power of expression of the language." To phonetic corruption 
we owe true grammatical forms, which make the wealth of every 
inflective language ; but it is also destructive of the very edifice 
which it has helped to build. He speaks of " the legitimate 
tendency to neglect and eliminate distinctions which are practically 
unnecessary," and will not admit " that we can speak our minds 
any less distinctly than our ancestors could, with all their apparatus 
of inflexions " ; gender is a luxury which any language can well 
afford to dispense with, but language is impoverished by the 
obliteration of the subjunctive mood. The giving up of grammatical 
endings is akin to wastefulness, and the excessive loss in English 
makes truly for decay (L 31, 73, 74, 76, 77, 84, 85 ; G 51, 105, 104). 

XVn. 4. The Scientific Attitude. 

Why are all such expressions either of depreciation or of partial 
appreciation of the modern languages so utterly unsatisfactory ? 
One reason is that they are so vague and dependent on a general 
feeling of inferiority or the reverse, instead of being based on a 
detailed comparative estimation of real facts in linguistic structure. 
If, therefore, we want to arrive at a scientific answer to the question 
" Decay or progress ? " we must examine actual instances of changes, 
but must take particular care that these instances are not chosen 
at random, but are typical and characteristic of the total structure 
of the languages concerned. What is wanted is not a comparison 
of isolated facts, but the establishment of general laws and ten- 
dencies, for only through such can we hope to decide whether 
or no we are justified in using terms like ' development ' and 
' evolution ' in linguistic history. 

The second reason why the earlier pronouncements quoted 
above do not satisfy us is that their authors nowhere raise the 
question of the method by which linguistic value is to be measured, 


by what standard and what tests the comparative merits of 
languages or of forms are to be ascertained. Those linguists 
who looked upon language as a product of nature were by that 
very fact precluded from establishing a rational basis for deter- . 
mining linguistic values ; nor is it possible to find one if we look 
at things from the one-sided point of view of the linguistic historian. 
An almost comical instance of this is found when Curtius (Sprach- 
wiss. u. class, phil. 39) says that the Greek accusative poda is 
better than Sanskrit padam, because it is possible at once to see 
that it belongs to the third declension. What is to be taken into 
account is of course the interests of the speaking community, 
and if we consistently consider language as a set of human actions 
with a definite end in view, namely, the communication of thoughts 
and feelings, then it becomes easy to find tests by which to measure 
linguistic values, for from that point of view it is evident that 


The estimation has to be thoroughly and frankly anthropo- 
centric. This may be a defect in other sciences, in which it is 
a merit on the part of the investigator to be able to abstract 
himself from human considerations ; in linguistics, on the contrary, 
on account of the very nature of the object of study, one must 
constantly look to the human interest, and judge everything from 
that, and from no other, point of view. Otherwise we run the 
risk of going astray in all directions. 

It will be noticed that my formula contains two requirements : 
it demands a maximum of efficiency and a minimum of effort. 
Efficiency means expressiveness, and effort means bodily and 
mental labour, and thus the formula is simply one of modern 
energetics. But unfortunately we are in possession of no method 
by which to measure either expressiveness or effort exactly, and 
in cases of conflict it may be difficult to decide to which of the 
two sides we are to attach the greater importance, how great a 
surplus of efficiency is required to counterbalance a surplus 
of exertion, or inversely. Still, in many cases no doubt can 
arise, and we are often able to state progress, because there 
is either a clear gain in efficiency or a diminution of exertion, 
or both. 

There is one objection which is likely to present itself to many 
of my readers, namely, that natives handle their language without 
the least exertion or effort (cf. XIV 6, p. 262). Madvig (1857, 
73 ff.=Kl 260 ff.) admits that a simplification in linguistic structure 
will make the language easier to learn for foreigners, but denies 


that it means increased ease for the native. Similarly Wechssler 
(L 149) says that " der begriff der schwierigkeit und unbequem- 
lichkeit fur die einheimischen nicht existiert." I might quote 
against him his countryman Gabelentz, who expressly says that the 
difficulties of the German languages are felt by natives, a view that 
is endorsed by Schuchardt in various places. 1 To my mind there 
is not the slightest doubt that different languages differ very 
much in easiness even to native speakers. In the chapters devoted 
to children we have already seen that the numerous mistakes 
made by them in every possible way testify to the labour involved 
in learning one's own language. This labour must naturally be 
greater in the case of a highly complicated linguistic structure 
with many rules and still more exceptions to the rules, than in 
languages constructed simply and regularly. 

Nor is the difficulty of correct speech confined to the first 
mastering of the language. Even to the native who has spoken 
the same language from a child, its daily use involves no small 
amount of exertion. Under ordinary circumstances he is not- 
conscious of any exertion in speaking ; but such a want of con- 
scious feeling is no proof that the exertion is absent. And it is 
a strong argument to the contrary that it is next to impossible 
for you to speak correctly if you are suffering from excessive 
mental work ; you will constantly make slips in grammar and 
idiom as well as in pronunciation ; you have not the same com- 
mand of language as under normal conditions. If you have to 
speak on a difficult and unfamiliar subject, on which you would 
not like to say anything but what is to the point or strictly justi- 
fiable, you will sometimes find that the thoughts themselves claim 
so much mental energy that there is none left for speaking with 
elegance, or even with complete regard to grammar : to your 
own vexation you will have a feeling that your phrases are confused 
and your language incorrect. A pianist may practise a difficult 
piece of music so as to have it " at his fingers' ends " ; under 
ordinary circumstances he will be able to play it quite mechanically, 
without ever being conscious of effort ; but, nevertheless, the 
effort is there. How great the effort is appears when some 
day or other the musician is * out of humour,' that is, when 
his brain is at work on other subjects or is not in its usual 
working order. At once his execution will be stumbling and 

1 Cf. also what Paul says (P 144) about one point in German grammar 
(strong and weak forms of adjectives) : " But the difficulty of the correct 
maintenance of the distinction is shown in numerous offences made by 
writers against the rules of grammar " of course, not only by writers, but 
by ordinary speakers as well. 


XVn. 5. Final Answer. 

I may here anticipate the results of the following investigation 
and say that in all those instances in which we are able to examine 
the history of any language for a sufficient length of time, we 
find that languages have a progressive tendency. But if languages 
progress towards greater perfection, it is not in a bee-line, nor 
are all the changes we witness to be considered steps in the right 
direction. The only thing I maintain is that the sum total of these 
changes, when we compare a remote period with the present time, 
shows a surplus of progressive over retrogressive or indifferent changes, 
so that the structure of modern languages is nearer perfection 
than that of ancient languages, if we take them as wholes instead 
of picking out at random some one or other more or less signifi- 
cant detail. And of course it must not be imagined that pro- 
gress has been achieved through deliberate acts of men conscious 
that they were improving their mother-tongue. On the contrary, 
many a step in advance has at first been a slip or even a 
blunder, and, as in other fields of human activity, good results 
have only been won after a good deal of bungling and ' muddling 
along.' J My attitude towards this question is the same as that 
of Leslie Stephen, who writes in a letter (Life 454) : "I have a 
perhaps unreasonable amount of belief, not in a millennium, but 
in the world on the whole blundering rather forwards than 

Schleicher on one occasion used the fine simile : " Our words, 
as contrasted with Gothic words, are like a statue that has been 
rolling for a long time in the bed of a river till its beautiful limbs 
have been worn off, so that now scarcely anything remains but a 
polished stone cylinder with faint indications of what it once was " 
(D 34). Let us turn the tabled by asking : Suppose, however, 
that it would be quite out of the question to place the statue on 
a pedestal to be admired ; what if, on the one hand, it was not 
ornamental enough as a work of art, and if, on the other hand, 
human well-being was at stake if it was not serviceable in a rolling- 
mill : which would then be the better a rugged and unwieldy 
statue, making difficulties at every rotation, or an even, smooth, 
easygoing and well-oiled roller ? 

After these preliminary considerations we may now proceed 
to a comparative examination of the chief differences between 
ancient and modern stages of our Western European languages. 

1 It has often been pointed out how Great Britain has ' blundered ' 
into creating her world-wide Empire, and Gretton, in The King's Govern- 
ment (1914), applies the same view to the development of governmental 

6] SOUNDS 827 

XVII. 6. Sounds. 

The student who goes through the chapters devoted to sound 
changes in historical and comparative grammars will have great 
difficulty in getting at any great lines of development or general 
tendencies : even-thing seems just haphazard and fortuitous ; a 
long is here shortened and there diphthongized or lowered into e, 
etc. The history of sounds is dependent on surroundings in many, 
though not in all circumstances, but surroundings do not always 
act in the same way ; in short, there seem to be so many con- 
flicting tendencies that no universal or even general rules can be 
evolved from all these ' sound laws.' Still less would it seem 
possible to state anything about the comparative value of the 
forms before and after the change, for it does not seem to matter 
a bit for the speaking community whether it says stdn as in Old 
English or stone as now, and thus in innumerable cases. Nay, 
from one point of view it may seem that any change militates 
against the object of language (cf. Wechssler L 28), but this is 
true only of the very moment when the change sets in while people 
are accustomed to the old sound (or the old signification), and 
even then the change is only injurious provided it impedes under- 
standing or renders understanding less easy, which is far from 
always being the case. 

There is one scholar who has asserted the existence of a uni- 
versal progressive tendency in languages, or, as he calls it, a 
humanization of language, namely Baudouin de Courtenay (Ver- 
menschlichung der Sprache, 1893). He is chiefly thinking of the 
sound system, 1 and he maintains that there is a tendency towards 
eliminating the innermost articulations and using instead sounds 
that are formed nearer to the teeth and lips. Thus some back 
(postpalatal, velar) consonants become p, b, while others develop 
into 8 sounds ; cf . Slav slovo ' word ' with Lat. duo, etc. Baudouin 
also mentions the frequent palatalization of back consonants, as in 
French and Italian ce, ct, ge, gi, but as this is due to the influence 
of the following front vowel, it should not perhaps be mentioned 
as a universal tendency of human language. It is further said 
that throat sounds, which play such a great role in Semitic languages, 
have been discarded in most modern languages. But it may be 
objected that sometimes throat sounds do develop in modern 
periods, as in the Danish ' st0d ' and in English dialectal bu'er for 

1 In the realm of significations he sees the ' humanization ' of language 
exclusively in the development of abstract terms. An important point 
of disagreement between Baudouin and myself is in regard to morphology, 
where he sees only ' oscillations ' in historical times, in which he is unable 
to discover a continuous movement in any definite direction, while I main- 
tain that languages here manifest a definite progressive tendency. 


butter, etc. A universal tendency of sounds to move away from 
the throat cannot be said to be firmly established ; but for our 
purpose it is more important to say that even were it true, the 
value of such a tendency for the speaking community would not 
be great enough to justify us in speaking of progress towards a 
truly ' human ' language as opposed to the more beastlike language 
of our primeval ancestors. It is true that Baudouin (p. 25) says 
that it is possible to articulate in the front and upper part with 
less effort and with greater precision than in the interior and 
lower parts of the speaking apparatus, but if this is true with regard 
to the mouth proper, it cannot be maintained with regard to the 
^rocal chords, where very important effects may be produced in the 
most precise way by infinitely little exertion. Thus in no single 
point can I see that Baudouin de Courtenay has made out a strong 
case for his conception of ' humanization of language.' 

XVH. 7. Shortenings. 

But there is another phonetic tendency which is much more 
universal and infinitely more valuable than the one asserted by 
Baudouin de Courtenay, namely, the tendency to shorten words. 
Words get shorter and shorter in consequence of a great many 
of those changes that we see constantly going on in all languages : 
vowels in weak syllables are pronounced more and more indis- 
tinctly and finally disappear altogether, as when OE. lufu, stdnas, 
sende, through ME. luve, stanes, sende with pronounced e'a, have 
become our modern monosyllables love, stones, send, or when 
Latin bonum, homo, viginti have become Fr. bon, on, vingt, and 
Lat. bona, hominem, Fr. bonne, homme, where the vowel was kept, 
because it was a or protected by the consonant group, but has 
now also disappeared in normal pronunciation. Final vowels 
have been dropped extensively in Danish and German dialects, 
and so have the u's and i'a in Russian, which are now kept in the 
spelling merely as signs of the quality of the preceding consonant. 
It would be easy to multiply instances. Nor are the consonants 
more stable ; the dropping of final ones is seen most easily in 
Modern French, because they are retained in spelling, as in tout, 
vers, champ, chant, etc. In the two last examples two con- 
sonants have disappeared, the m and n, however, leaving a trace 
in the nasalized pronunciation of the vowel, as also in bon, nom, 
etc. Final r and I often disappear in Fr. words like quatre, simple, 
and medial consonants have been dropped in such cases as cdte 
from coste, bete from beste, sauf [so-f] from salvo, etc. We have 
corresponding omissions in English, where in very old times n 
was dropped in such cases as us, five, other, while the German 


forms uns, fiinf, ander have kept the old consonants ; in more 
recent times I was dropped in half, calm, etc., gh [x] in light, bought, 
etc., and r in the prevalent pronunciation of uarm, part, etc. Initial 
consonants are more firmly fixed in many languages, yet we see 
them lost in the E. combinations kn, gn, wr, where k, g, w used to 
be sounded, e.g. in know, gnaw, wrong. Consonant assimilation 
means in most cases the same thing as dropping of one consonant, 
for no trace of the consonant is left, at any rate after the compen- 
sating lengthening has been given up, as is often the case, e.g. in 
E. cupboard, blackguard [kAbad, blsega'd]. 

So far we have given instances of what might be called the most 
regular or constant types of phonetic change leading to shorter 
forms ; but the same result is the natural outcome of a process 
which occurs more sporadically. This is haplology, by which one 
sound or one group of sounds is pronounced once only instead of 
twice, the hearer taking it through a kind of acoustic delusion as 
belonging both to what precedes and to what follows. Examples 
are a goo(d) deal, wha(t) to do, nex(t) time, simp(le)ly, England 
from Englaland, eighteen from OE. eahtatiene, honesty from 
honestete, Glou(ce)str, Worcester [wusta], familiarly pro(ba}bly, 
vulgarly lib(ra)ry, Febr(uar)y. From other languages may be 
quoted Fr. cont(re)role, ido(lo)ldtre, Neu(ve)ville, Lat. nu(tri)trix, 
8ti(pi)pendium, It. qual(che)cosa, cosa for che cosa, etc. (Cf. my 
LPh 11. 9.) 

The accumulation through centuries of such influences results 
in those instances of seemingly violent contractors with 
which every student of historical linguistics is familiar. One 
classical example has already been mentioned above, E. had, 
corresponding to Gothic habaidedeima ; other examples are lord, 
with its three or four sounds, which was formerly laverd, and in 
Old English hldford ; the old Gothonic form of the same word 
contained indubitably as many as twelve sounds ; Latin augustum 
has in French through aoust become aout, pronounced [au] or even 
[u] ; Latin oculum has shrunk into four sounds in Italian occhio, 
three in Spanish ojo, and two in Fr. ail ; It. medesimo, Sp. mismo, 
and Fr. meme represent various stages of the shrinking of 
Lat. metipsimum ; cf. also Fr. menage from mansion- -f -aticum. 
Primitive Norse ne veit ek hvat ' not know I what ' has 
become Dan. noget 'something,' often pronounced [no'tS] or 

In all these cases the shortening process has taken centuries, 
but we have other instances in which it has come about quite 
suddenly, without any intermediate stages, namely, in those 
stump-words which we have already considered (Ch. IX 7 ; cf, 
XIV 12 on corresponding syntactical shortenings). 


XVH. 8. Objections. Result. 

There cannot therefore be the slightest doubt that the general 
tendency of all languages is towards shorter and shorter forms : 
the ancient languages of our family, Sanskrit, Zend, etc., abound 
in very long words ; the further back we go, the greater the number 
of sesquipedalia. It cannot justly be objected that we see some- 
times examples of phonetic lengthenings, as in E. sound from ME. 
soun, FT. son, E. whilst, amongst from ME. whiles, amonges ; a 
similar excrescence of t after s is seen in G. obst,pabst, Swed. eljest 
and others ; after n, t is added in G. jemand, niemand (two syllables, 
while there is nothing added to the trisyllabic jedermann) for 
even if such instances might be multiplied, their number and 
importance is infinitely smaller than those in the opposite direction. 
(On the seeming insertion of d in ndr, see p. 264, note). In some 
cases we witness a certain reaction against word forms that are 
felt to be too short and therefore too indistinct (see Ch. XV 1, 
XX 9), but on the whole such instances are few and far between : 
the prevailing tendency is towards shorter forms. 

Another objection must be dealt with here. It is said that 
it is only the purely phonetic development that tends to make 
words shorter, but that in languages as wholes words do not become 
shorter, because non-phonetic forces counteract the tendency. 
In modern languages we thus have some analogical formations 
which are longer than the forms they have supplanted, as when 
books has one sound more than OE. bee, or when G. bewegte takes the 
place of bewog. Further, we have in modern languages many auxili- 
ary words (prepositions, modal verbs) in places where they were 
formerly not required. That this objection is not valid if we 
take the whole of the language into consideration may perhaps 
be proved statistically if we compute the length of the same long 
text in various languages : the Gospel of St. Matthew contains 
in Greek about 39,000 syllables, in Swedish about 35,000, in German 
33,000, in Danish 32,500, in English 29,000, and in Chinese only 
17,000 (the figures for the Authorized English Version and for 
Danish are my own calculation ; the other figures I take from 
Tegner SM 51, Hoops in Anglia, Beiblatt 1896, 293, and Sturtevant 
LCh 175). In comparing these figures it should even be taken 
into consideration that translations naturally tend to be more 
long-winded and verbose than the original, so that the real gain 
in shortness may be greater than indicated. 1 

1 On the other hand, it is not, perhaps, fair to count the number of 
syllables, as these may vary very considerably, and some languages favour 
syllables with heavy consonant groups unknown in other tongues. The 
most rational measure of length would be to count the numbers of distinct 
(not sounds, but) articulations of separate speech organs but that task 
is at any rate beyond my powers. 


Next, we come to consider the question whether the tendency 
towards shorter forms is a valuable asset in the development of 
languages or the reverse. The answer cannot be doubtful. Take 
the old example, English had and Gothic habaidedeima : *he 
English form is preferable, on the principle that anyone who has 
to choose between walking one mile and four miles will, other 
things being equal, prefer the shorter cut. It is true that if we 
take words to be self-existing natural objects, habaidedeima has 
the air of a giant and had of a mere pigmy : this valuation lies 
at the bottom of many utterances even by recent linguistic thinkers, 
as when Sweet (H 10) speaks of the vanishing of sounds as " a 
purely destructive change." But if we adopt the anthropocentric 
standard which has been explained above, and realize that what 
we call a word is really and primarily the combined action of 
human muscles to produce an audible effect, we see that the shorten- 
ing of a form means a diminution of effort and a saving of time 
in the communication of our thoughts. If, as it is said, had has 
suffered from wear and tear in the long course of time, this means 
that the wear and tear of people now using this form in their speech 
is less than if they were still encumbered with the old giant habai- 
dedeima. Voltaire was certainly very wide of the mark when 
he wrote : " C'est le propre des barbares d'abreger les mots " 
long and clumsy words are rather to be considered as signs 
of barbarism, and short and nimble ones as signs of advanced 

Though I thus hold that the development towards shorter 
forms of expression is on the whole progressive, i.e. beneficial, I 
should not like to be too dogmatic on this point and assert that 
it is always beneficial : shortness may be carried to excess and 
thus cause obscurity or difficulty of understanding. This may 
be seen in the telegraphic style as well as in the literary style of 
some writers too anxious to avoid prolixity (some of Pope's lines 
might be quoted in illustration of the classical : brevis esse laboro, 
obscurus no). But in the case of the language of a whole com- 
munity the danger certainly is very small indeed, for there will 
always be a natural and wholesome reaction against such excessive 
shortness. There is another misunderstanding I want to guard 
against when saying that the shortening makes on the whole 
for progress. It must not be thought that I lay undue stress 
on this point, which is after all chiefly concerned with a greater 
or smaller amount of physical or muscular exertion this should 
neither be underrated nor overrated ; but it will be seen that 
neither in my former work nor in this does the consideration of 
this point of mere shortness or length take up more than a fraction 
of the space allotted to the more psychical sides of the question, 

332 PROGRESS OR DECAY ? [en. xvn 

to which we shall now turn our attention and to which I attach 
much more importance. 

XVH. 9. Verbal Forms. 

We may here recur to Schleicher's example, E. had and Gothic 
habaidedeima. It is not only in regard to economy of muscular 
exertion that the former carries the day over the latter. Had 
corresponds not only to habaidedeima, but it unites in one short 
form everything expressed by the Gothic habaida, habaides, habai- 
dedu, habaideduts, Jiabaidedum, habaidedup, habaidedun, habaidedjau, 
habaidedeis, habaidedi, habaidedeiiva, habaidedeits , habaidedeima, 
habaidedety, habaidedeina separate forms for two or three persons 
in three numbers in two distinct moods I It is clear, therefore, 
that the English form saves a considerable amount of brainwork 
to all English-speaking people not only to children, who have 
fewer forms to learn, but also to adults, who have fewer forms 
to choose between and to keep distinct whenever they open their 
mouths to speak. Someone might, perhaps, say that on the 
other hand English people are obliged always to join personal 
pronouns to their verbal forms to indicate the person, and that 
this is a drawback counterbalancing the advantage, so that the 
net result is six of one and half a dozen of the other. This, how- 
ever, would be a very superficial objection. For, in the first place, 
the personal pronouns are the same for all tenses and moods, but 
the endings are not. Secondly, the possession of endings does 
not exempt the Goths from having separate personal pronouns ; 
and whenever these are used, as is very often the case in the first 
and second persons, those parts of the verbal endings which 
indicate persons are superfluous. They are no less superfluous 
in those extremely numerous cases in which the subject is either 
separately expressed by a noun or is understood from the preceding 
proposition, thus in the vast majority of the cases of the third 
person. If we compare a few pages of Old English prose with a 
modern rendering we shall see that in spite of the reduction in 
the latter of the person-indicating endings, personal pronouns are 
not required in any great number of sentences in which they were 
dispensed with in Old English. So that, altogether, the numerous 
endings of the older languages must be considered uneconomical. 

If Gothic, Latin and Greek, etc., burden the memory by the num- 
ber of their flexional endings, they do so even more by the many 
irregularities in the formation of these endings. In all the lan- 
guages of this type, anomaly and flexion invariably go together. 
The intricacies of verbal flexion in Latin and Greek are well known, 
and it requires no small amount of mental energy to master the 


various modes of forming the present stems in Sanskrit to take 
only one instance. Many of these irregularities disappear in 
course of time, chiefly, but not exclusively, through analogical 
formations, and though it is true that a certain number of new 
irregularities may come into existence, their number is relatively 
small when compared with those that have been removed. Now, 
it is not only the forms themselves that are irregular in the early 
languages, but also their uses : logical simplicity prevails much 
more in Modern English syntax than in either Old English or 
Latin or Greek. But it is hardly necessary to point out that 
growing regularity in a language means a considerable gain to all 
those who learn it or speak it. 

It has been said, however, by one of the foremost authorities 
on the history of English, that " in spite of the many changes 
which this system [i.e. the complicated system of strong verbs] 
has undergone in detail, it remains just as intricate as it was in 
Old English " (Bradley, The Making of English 51). It is true 
that the way in which vowel change is utilized to form tenses 
is rather complicated in Modern English (drink drank, give gave, 
hold held, etc.), but otherwise an enormous simplification has taken 
place. The personal endings have been discarded with the ex- 
ception of -8 in the third person singular of the present (and the 
obsolete ending -est in the second person, and then this has been 
regularized, thou sangest having taken the place of }>u sunge) ; the 
change of vowel in ic sang, ^u sunge, we sungon in the indicative 
and ic sunge, we sungen in the subjunctive has been given up, 
and so has the accompanying change of consonant in many cases. 
Thus, instead of the following forms, ceosan, close, close?, ceosay, 
ceosen, ceas, curon, cure, curen, coren, we have the following modern 
ones, which are both fewer in number and less irregular : choose, 
chooses, chose, chosen certainly an advance from a more to a less 
intricate system (cf. GS 178). 

An extreme, but by no means unique example of the simpli- 
fication found in modern languages is the English cut, which can 
serve both as present and past tense, both as singular and plural, 
both in the first, second and third persons, both in the infinitive, 
in the imperative, in the indicative, in the subjunctive, and as a 
past (or passive) participle ; compare with this the old languages 
with their separate forms for different tenses, moods, numbers 
and persons ; and remember, moreover, that the identical form, 
without any inconvenience being occasioned, is also used as a 
noun (a cut), and you will admire the economy of the living tongue. 
A characteristic feature of the structure of languages in their 
early stages is that each form contains in itself several minor 
modifications which are often in the later stages expressed separately 


by means of auxiliary words. Such a word as Latin cantavisset 
unites into one inseparable whole the equivalents of six ideas : 
(1) * sing,' (2) pluperfect, (3) that indefinite modification of the 
verbal idea which we term subjunctive, (4) active, (5) third person, 
and (6) singular. 

XVII. 10. Synthesis and Analysis. 

Such a form, therefore, is much more concrete than the forms 
found in modern languages, of which sometimes two or more 
have to be combined to express the composite notion which was 
rendered formerly by one. Now, it is one of the consequences 
of this change that it has become easier to express certain minute, 
but by no means unimportant, shades of thought by laying extra 
stress on some particular element in the speech-group. Latin 
cantaveram amalgamates into one indissoluble whole what in E. 
/ had sung is analysed into three components, so that you can at 
will accentuate the personal element, the time element or the 
action. Now, it is possible (who can affirm and who can deny it ?) 
that the Romans could, if necessary, make some difference in 
speech between cdntaveram (non saltaveram) ' I had sung,' and 
cantaverdm (non cantabam), * I had sung ' ; but even then, if it 
was the personal element which was to be emphasized, an ego 
had to be added. Even the possibility of laying stress on the 
temporal element broke down in forms like scripsi, minui, sum, 
audiam, and innumerable others. It seems obvious that the 
freedom of Latin in this respect must have been inferior to that of 
English. Moreover, in English, the three elements, ' I,' ' had,' and 
' sung,' can in certain cases be arranged in a different order, and 
other words can be inserted between them in order to modify 
and qualify the meaning of the sentence. Note also the concise- 
ness of such answers as " Who had sung ? " "I had." " What 
had you done ? " " Sung." " I believe he has enjoyed himself." 
" I know he has." And contrast the Latin " Cantaveram et 
saltaveram et luseram et riseram " with the English " I had sung 
and danced and played and laughed." What would be the Latin 
equivalent of " Tom never did and never will beat me " ? 
' In such cases, analysis means suppleness, and synthesis means 
rigidity ; in analytic languages you have the power of kaleidosco- 
pically arranging and rearranging the elements that in synthetic 
forms like cantaveram are in rigid connexion and lead a Siamese- 
twin sort of existence. The synthetic forms of Latin verbs remind 
one of those languages all over the world (North America, South 
America, Hottentot, etc.) in which such ideas as 'father' or 
* mother ' or ' head ' or ' eye ' cannot be expressed separately 


but only in connexion with an indication of whose father, etc., 
one is speaking about : in one language the verbal idea (in the 
finite moods), in the other the nominal idea, is necessarily fused 
with the personal idea. 

XVn. 11. Verbal Concord. 

This formal inseparability of subordinate elements is at the 
root of those rules of concord which play such a large r61e in the 
older languages of our Aryan family, but which tend to disappear 
in the more recent stages. By concord we mean the fact that a 
secondary word (adjective or verb) is made to agree with the 
primary word (substantive or subject) to which it belongs. Verbal 
concord, by which a verb is governed in number and person by 
the subject, has disappeared from spoken Danish, where, for 
instance, the present tense of the verb meaning ' to travel ' is 
uniformly rejser in all persons of both numbers ; while the written 
language till towards the end of the nineteenth century kept up 
artificially the plural rejse, although it had been dead in the spoken 
language for some three hundred years. The old flexion is an 
article of luxury, as a modification uf the idea belonging properly 
to the subject is here transferred to the predicate, where it has 
no business ; for when we say ' maendene rejse ' (die manner reisen), 
we do not mean to imply that they undertake several journeys 
(cf. Madvig Kl 28, Nord. tsk. f. filol, n.r. 8. 134). 

By getting rid of this superfluity, Danish has got the start 
of the more archaic of its Aryan sister-tongues. Even English, 
which has in most respects gone farthest in simplifying its flexional 
system, lags here behind Danish, in that in the present tense of 
most verbs the third person singular deviates from the other 
persons by ending in -s, and the verb be preserves some other 
traces of the old concord system, not to speak of the form in -st 
used with th&u in the language of religion and poetry. Small 
and unimportant as these survivals may seem, still they are in 
some instances impediments to the free and easy expression of 
thought. In Danish, for instance, there is not tfie slightest diffi- 
culty in saying ' enten du eller jeg har uret,' as har is used both 
in the first and second persons singular and plural. But when 
an Englishman tries to render the same simple sentiment he is 
baffled ; 'either you or I are wrong ' is felt to be incorrect, and 
so is ' either you or I am wrong ' ; he might say ' either you are 
wrong, or I,' but then this manner of putting it, if grammatically 
admissible (with or without the addition of am), is somewhat stiff 
and awkward ; and there is no perfectly natural way out of the 
difficulty, for Dean Alford's proposal to say ' either you or I is 


wrong ' (The. Queen's Engl. 155) is not to be recommended. The 
advantage of having verbal forms that are no respecters of persons 
is seen directly in such perfectly natural expressions as ' either 
you or I must be wrong,' or ' either you or I may be wrong,' 
or ' either you or I began it ' and indirectly from the more or 
less artificial rules of Latin and Greek grammars on this point ; 
in the following passages the Gordian knot is cut in different ways : 

Shakespeare LLL v. 2. 346 Nor God, nor I, delights in perjur'd 
men | id. As I. 3. 99 Thou and I am one | Tennyson Poet. W. 369 
For whatsoever knight against us came Or I or he have easily over- 
thrown | Galsworthy D 30 Am I and all women really what they 
think us ? | Shakespeare H4B rv. 2. 121 Heauen, and not wee, 
haue safely fought to day (Folio, where the Quarto has : God, 
and not wee, hath. . . .) 

The same difficulty often appears in relative clauses ; Alford 
(I.e. 152) calls attention to the fact of the Prayer Book reading 
" Thou art the God that doeth wonders," whereas the Bible version 
runs " Thou art the God that doest wonders." Compare also : 

Shakespeare As in. 5. 55 'Tis not her glasse, but you that 
flatters her | id. Meas. n. 2. 80 It is the law, not I, condemne your 
brother | Carlyle Fr. Rev. 38, There is none but you and I that has 
the people's interest at heart (translated from : II n'y a que vous 
et moi qui aimions le peuple). 

In all such cases the construction in Danish is as easy and 
natural as it generally is in the English preterit : "It was not her 
glass, but you that flattered her." The disadvantage of having 
verbal forms which enforce the indication of person and number 
is perhaps seen most strikingly in a French sentence like this 
from Remain Holland's JeanChristophe (7. 221) : " Ce mot, naturelle- 
ment, ce n'est ni toi, ni moi, quipouvons le dire " the verb agrees 
with that which cannot be the subject (we) ! For what is meant 
is really : ' colui qui peut le dire, ce n'est ni moi ni toi.' 


1 . Nominal Forms. 2. Irregularities Original. 3. Syntax. 4. Ob- 
jections. 5. Word Order. 6. Gender. 7. Nominal Concord. 
8. The English Genitive. 9. Bantu Concord. 10. Word Order 
Again. 11. Compromises. 12. Order Beneficial ? 13. Word 
Order and Simplification. 14. Summary. 

XVIQ. 1. Nominal Forms. 

Ix the flexion of substantives and adjectives we see phenomena 
corresponding to those we have just been considering in the verbs. 
The ancient languages of our family have several forms where 
modern languages content themselves with fewer ; forms originally 
kept distinct are in course of time confused, either through a 
phonetic obliteration of differences in the endings or through 
analogical extension of the functions of one form. The single 
form good is now used where OE. used the forms god, godne, gode, 
godum, godes, godre, godra, goda, godan, godena ; Ital. uomo or 
French homme is used for Lat. homo, hominem, homini, homine 
nay, if we take the spoken form into consideration, FT. [om] 
corresponds not only to these Latin forms, but also to homines, 
hominibus. Where the modern language has one or two cases, 
in an earlier stage it had three or four, and still earlier seven or 
eight. The difficulties inherent in the older system cannot, however, 
be measured adequately by the number of forms each word is 
susceptible of, but are multiplied by the numerous differences 
in the formation of the same case in different classes of declension ; 
sometimes we even find anomalies which affect one word only. 

Those who would be inclined to maintain that new irregularities 
may and do arise in modern languages which make up for what- 
ever earlier irregularities have been discarded in the course of 
the historical development will do well to compile a systematic 
list of all the flexional forms of two different stages of the same 
languages, arranged exactly according to the same principles : 
this is the only way in which it is possible really to balance losses 
and profits in a language. This is what I have done in my 
Progress in Language 111 ff. (reprinted in ChE 9 ff.), where 
! I have contrasted the case systems of Old and Modern English : 

22 33T 

338 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

the result is that the former system takes 7 (+ 3) pages, and the 
latter only 2 pages. Those pages, with their abbreviations and 
tabulations, do not, perhaps, offer very entertaining reading, but 
I think they are more illustrative of the real tendencies of language 
than either isolated examples or abstract reasonings, and they 
cannot fail to convince any impartial reader of the enormous gain 
achieved through the changes of the intervening nine hundred 
years in the general structure of the English language. 

For our general purposes it will be worth our while here to 
quote what Friedrich Miiller (Gr i. 2. 7) says about a totally 
different language : " Even if the Hottentot distinguishes ' he,' 
' she ' and 'it,' and strictly separates the singular from the plural 
number, yet by his expressing ' he ' and ' she ' by one sound in 
the third person, and by another in the second, he manifests that 
he has no perception at all of our two grammatical categories of 
gender and number, and consequently those elements of his lan- 
guage that run parallel to our signs of gender and number must 
be of an entirely different nature." FT. Muller should not 
perhaps throw too many stones at the poor Hottentots, for his 
own native tongue is no better than a glass house, and we might 
with equal justice say, for instance : "As the Germans express 
the plural number in different manners in words like gott gotter, 
hand hdnde, vater vater, frau frauen, etc., they must be en- 
tirely lacking in the sense of the category of number." Or let 
us take such a language as Latin ; there is nothing to show that 
dominus bears the same relation to domini as verbum to verba, 
urbs to urbes, mensis to menses, cornu to cornua, fructus to fructus, 
etc. ; even in the same word the idea of plurality is not expressed 
by the same method for all the cases, as is shown by a com- 
parison of dominus domini, dominum dominos, domino dominis, 
domini dominorum. Fr. Muller is no doubt wrong in saying 
that such anomalies preclude the speakers of the language from 
conceiving the notion of plurality ; but, on the other hand, it 
seems evident that a language in which a difference so simple 
even to the understanding of very young children as that between 
one and more than one can only be expressed by a complicated 
apparatus must rank lower than another language in which this 
difference has a single expression for all cases in which it occurs. 
In this respect, too, Modern English stands higher than the oldest 
English, Latin or Hottentot. 

XVm. 2. Irregularities Original 

It was the belief of the older school of comparativists that 
each case had originally one single ending, which was added to 


all nouns indifferently (e.g. -as for the genitive sg.), and that the 
irregularities found in the existing oldest languages were of later 
growth ; the actually existing forms were then derived from the 
supposed unity form by all kinds of phonetic tricks and dodges. 
Now people have begun to see that the primeval language cannot 
have been quite uniform and regular (see, for instance, Walde 
in Streitberg's Gesch., 2. 194 ff.). If we look at facts, and not 
at imagined or reconstructed forms, we are forced to acknowledge 
that in the oldest stages of our family of languages not only did 
the endings present the spectacle of a motley variety, but the 
kernel of the word was also often subject to violent changes in 
different cases, as when it had in different forms different accentua- 
tion and (or) different apophony, or as when in some of the most 
frequently occurring words some cases were formed from one 
* stem ' and others from another, for instance, the nominative 
from an r stem and the oblique cases from an n stem. In the 
common word for ' water ' Greek has preserved both stems, nom. 
hudor, gen. hudatos, where a stands for original [an]. Whatever 
the origin of this change of stems, it is a phenomenon belonging 
to the earlier stages of our languages, in which we also sometimes 
find an alteration between the r stem in the nominative and a 
combination of the n and the r stems in the other cases, as in 
Lat. jecur ' liver,' jecinoris ; iter ' voyage,' itineris, which is 
supposed to have supplanted itinis, formed like feminis from femur. 
In the later stages we always find a simplification, one single form 
running through all cases ; this is either the nominative stem, as 
in E. water, G. wasser (corresponding to Gr. hudor) , or the oblique 
case-stem, as in the Scandinavian forms, Old Norse vain, Swed. 
vatten, Dan. vand (corresponding to Gr. hudat-), or finally a con- 
taminated form, as in the name of the Swedish lake Vdttern 
(Noreen's explanation), or in Old Norse and Dan. skarn ' dirt,' 
which has its r from a form like the Gr. skor, and its n from a 
form like the Gr. genitive skatos (older [skantos]). The simplification 
is carried furthest in English, where the identical form water is 
not only used unchanged where in the older languages different 
case forms would have been used (' the water is cold,' ' the surface 
of the water,' 'he fell into the water,' ' he swims in the water '), 
but also serves as a verb (' did you water the flowers ? '), and 
as an adjunct as a quasi-adjective (' a water melon,' * water 
plants '). 

In most cases irregularities have been done away with in the 
way here indicated, one of the forms (or stems) being generalized ; 
but in other cases it may have happened, as Kretschmer supposes 
(in Gercke and Norden, Einleit. in die Altertums'cias, I, 501) that 
irregular flexion caused a word to go out of use entirely. ; thus 

340 PROGRESS [en. xvin 

in Modern G~eek hipar was supplanted by sttkoti, 1 phrear by pegadi, 
hudor by nerd, oils by aphti (= otiori), kudn by skulli ; this possibly 
also accounts for commando taking the place of Lat. jubeo. 

Some scholars maintain that the medieval languages were 
more regular than their modern representatives ; but if we look 
more closely into what they mean, we shall see that they are not 
speaking of any regularity in the sense in which the word has here 
been used the only regularity which is of importance to the 
speakers of the language but of the regular correspondence of 
a language with some earlier language from which it is derived. 
This is particularly the case with E. Littre, who, in his essays on 
L'Histoire de la Langue Fran$aise, was full of enthusiasm for Old 
French, but chiefly for the fidelity with which it had preserved 
some features of Latin. There was thus the old distinction of 
two cases : nom. sg. murs, ace. sg. mur, and in the plural inversely 
nom. mur and ace. murs, with its exact correspondence with Latin 
mums, murum, pi. muri, muros. When this ' regie de I's ' was 
discovered, and the use or omission of s, which had hitherto been 
looked upon as completely arbitrary in Old French, was thus 
accounted for, scholars were apt to consider this as an admirable 
trait in the old language which had been lost in modern French, 
and the same view obtained with regard to the case distinction 
found in other words, such as OFr. nom. maire, ace. majeur, or 
nom. emperere, ace. empereur, corresponding to the Latin forms 
with changing stress, major, majdrem, imperdtor, imperatorem, 
etc. But, however interesting such things may be to the historical 
linguist, there is no denying that to the users of French the modern 
simpler flexion is a gain as compared with this more complex 
system. " Des sprachhistorikers freud ist des sprachbrauchers 
leid," as Schuchardt somewhere shrewdly remarks. 

XVm. 3. Syntax. 

There were also in the old languages many irregularities in 
the syntactic use of the cases, as when some verbs governed the 
genitive and others the dative, etc. Even if it may be possible 
in many instances to account historically for these uses, to the 
speakers of the languages they must have appeared to be mere 
caprices which had to be learned separately for each verb, and it 
is therefore a great advantage when they have been gradually 
done away with, as has been the case, to a great extent, even in 
a language like German, which has retained many old case forms. 
Thus verbs like entbehren, vergessen, bediirfen, wahrnehmen, which 
formerly took the genitive, are now used more and more with the 
1 Thus aho the corresponding Lat. jecur by ficatum, Fr. foie. 

3] SYNTAX 341 

simple accusative a simplification which, among other things, 
makes the construction of sentences in the passive voice easier 
and more regular. 

The advantage of discarding the old case distinctions is seen 
in the ease with which English and French speakers can say, 
e.g., ' with or without my hat,' or ' in and round the church/ 
whUe the correct German is ' mit meinem hut oder ohne denselben ' 
and ' in der kirche und um dieselbe ' ; Wackernagel writes : 
Was in ihm und um ihn und iiber ihm ist." When the preposi- 
tions are followed by a single substantive without case distinction, 
German, of course, has the same simple construction as English, 
e.g. ' mit oder ohne geld,' and sometimes even good writers will 
let themselves go and write ' um und neben dem hochaltare ' 
(Goethe), or ' Ihre tochter wird meine frau mit oder gegen ihren 
willen ' (these examples from Curme, German Grammar 191). 
Cf . also : ' Ich kann deinem bruder nicht helfen und ihn unter- 

Many extremely convenient idioms unknown in the older 
synthetic languages have been rendered possible in English through 
the doing away with the old case distinctions, such as : Genius, 
demanding bread, is given a stone after its possessor's death (Shaw) 
(cf. my ChE 79) | he was offered, and declined, the office of 
poet-laureate (Gosse) | the lad was spoken highly of | I love, and 
am loved by, my wife | these laws my readers, whom I consider 
as my subjects, are bound to believe in and to obey (Fielding) | 
he was heathenishly inclined to believe in, or to worship, the 
goddess Nemesis (id.) | he rather rejoiced in, than regretted, his 
bruise (id.) | many a dun had she talked to, and turned away 
from her father's door (Thackeray) | their earthly abode, which 
has seen, and seemed almost to sympathize in, all their honour 

XVm. 4. Objections. 

Against my view of the superiority of languages with few 
case distinctions, Arwid Johannson, in a very able article (in 
IF I, see especially p. 247 f.), has adduced a certain number of 
ambiguous sentences from German : 

Soweit die deutsche zunge klingt und gott im himniel 
liedersingt (is gott nominative or dative ?) | Seinem landsinann, 
dem er in seiner ganzen bildung ebensoviel verdankte, wie 
Goethe (nominative or dative ?) | Doch wiirde die gesellschaft 
der Indierin (genitive or dative ?) lastig gewesen sein | Dar- 
in hat Caballero wohl nur einen konkurrenten, die Eliot, 
u-ekhe freilich die spanische dichterin nicht ganz erreicht I Nur 

342 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

Diopeithes feindet insgeheim dich an und die schwester des 
Kimon und dein weib Telesippa. (In the last two sentences 
what is the subject, and what the object ?) 

According to Johannson, these passages show the disadvantages 
of doing away with formal distinctions, for the sentences would 
have been clear if each separate case had had its distinctive sign ; 
" the greater the wealth of forms, the more intelligible the 
speech." And they show, he says, that such ambiguities will 
occur, even where the strictest rules of word order are observed. 
I shall not urge that this is not exactly the case in the last sen- 
tence if die schwester and dein weib are to be taken as accusatives, 
for then an should have been placed at the very end of the sen- 
tence ; nor that, in the last sentence but one, the mention of 
George Eliot as the ' konkurrent ' of Fernan Caballero seems to 
show a partiality to the Spanish authoress on the part of the 
writer of the sentence, so that the reader is prepared to take 
welche as the nominative case ; freilich would seem to point in the 
same direction. But these, of course, are only trifling objections ; 
the essential point is that we must grant the truth of Johannson 's 
contention that we have here a flaw in the German language ; 
the defects of its grammatical system may and do cause a certain 
number of ambiguities. Neither is it difficult to find the reasons 
of these defects by considering the structure of the language in 
its entirety, and by translating the sentences in question into a 
few other languages and comparing the results. 

First, with regard to the formal distinctions between cases, 
the really weak point cannot be the fewness of these endings, 
for in that case we should expect the same sort of ambiguities 
to be very common in English and Danish, where the formal 
case distinctions are considerably fewer than in German ; but as 
a matter of fact such ambiguities are more frequent in German 
than in the other two languages. And, however paradoxical it 
may seem at first sight, one of the causes of this is the greater 
wealth of grammatical forms in German. Let us substitute 
other words for the ambiguous ones, and we shall see that the 
amphibology will nearly always disappear, because most other 
words will have different forms in the two cases, e.g. : 

Soweit die deutsche zunge klingt und dem allmacktigen 
(or, der allmachtige) lieder singt | Seinem landsmann, dem er 
ebensoviel verdankte, wie dem grossen dichter (or, der groase 
dichter) \ Doch wurde die gesellschaft des Indiers (or, dem 
Indier) lastig gewesen sein | Darin hat Calderon wohl nur 
einen konkurrenten, Shakespeare, wekher freilich den span- 


ischen dithter nicht erreicht (or, den . . . der spanische dich- 
ter . . .) | Nur Diopeithes feindet dich insgeheim an, und der 
bruder des Kimon und sein freund T. (or, den bruder . . . 
seinen freund). 

It is this very fact that countless sentences of this sort are 
perfectly clear which leads to the employment of similar construc- 
tions even where the resulting sentence is by no means clear ; 
but if all, or most, words were identical in the nominative and 
the dative, like gott, or in the dative and genitive, like der Indierin, 
constructions like those used would be impossible to imagine in 
a language meant to be an intelligible vehicle of thought. And 
so the ultimate cause of the ambiguities is the inconsistency in the 
formation of the several cases. But this inconsistency is found 
in all the old languages of the Aryan family : cases which in one 
gender or with one class of stems are kept perfectly distinct, 
are in others identical. I take some examples from Latin, because 
this is perhaps the best known language of this type, but Gothic 
or Old Slavonic would show inconsistencies of the same kind. 
Domini is genitive singular and nominative plural (corresponding 
to, e.g., verbi and verba) ; verba is nominative and accusative pi. 
(corresponding to domini and dominos) ; domino is dative and 
ablative ; domirue gen. and dative singular and nominative plural ; 
te is accusative and ablative ; qui is singular and plural ; quce 
singular fern, and plural fern, and neuter, etc. Hence, while patres 
filios amant or patres filii amant are perfectly clear, patres consules 
amant allows of two interpretations ; and in how many ways 
cannot such a proposition as Horatius et Virgilius poetce Varii 
amid erant be construed ? Menenii patris munus may mean 
' the gift of father Menenius,' or ' the gift of Menenius's father ' ; 
expers illius pericidi either ' free from that danger ' or ' free from 
(sharing) that person's danger ' ; in an infinitive construction 
with two accusatives, the only way to know which is the subject 
and which the object is to consider the context, and that is not 
always decisive, as in the oracular response given to the ^Eacide 
Pyrrhus, as quoted by Cicero from Ennius : " Aio te, JSacida, 
Bomanos vincere posse." Such drawbacks seem to be inseparable 
from the structure of the Highly flexional Aryan languages ; although 
they are not logical consequences of a wealth of forms, yet his- 
torically they cling to those languages which have the greatest 
number of grammatical endings. And as we are here concerned 
not vith the question how to construct an artificial language 
(and even there I should not advise the adoption of many case 
distinctions), but with the valuation of natural languages as 
actually existing in their earlier and modern stages, we cannot 

344 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

accept Johannson's verdict : " The greater the wealth of forms, 
the more intelligible the speech." 

XVm. 5. Word Order. 

If the German sentences quoted above are ambiguous, it is 
not only on account of the want of clearness in the forms employed, 
but also on account of the German rules of word order. One rule 
places the verb last in subordinate sentences, and in two of the 
sentences there would be no ambiguity in principal sentences : 
Die deutsche zunge klingt und singt gott im himmel lieder ; or, 
Die deutsche zunge klingt, und gott im himmel singt lieder | Sie 
erreicht freilich nicht die spanische dichterin ; or, Die spanische 
dichterin erreicht sie freilich nicht. In one of the remaining sen- 
tences the ambiguity is caused by the rule that the verb must be 
placed immediately after an introductory subjunct : if we omit 
dock the sentence becomes clear: Die gesellschaft der Indierin 
wilrde lastig gewesen sein, or, Die gesellschaft wiirde der Indierin 
lastig gewesen sein. Here, again we see the ill consequences of 
inconsistency of linguistic structure ; some of the rules for word 
position serve to show grammatical relations, but in certain cases 
they have to give way to other rules, which counteract this useful 
purpose. If you change the order of words in a German sentence, 
you will often find that the meaning is not changed, but the result 
will be an unidiomatic construction (bad grammar) ; while in 
English a transposition will often result in perfectly good grammar, 
only the meaning will be an entirely different one from the original 
sentence. This does not amount to saying that the German rules 
of position are useless and the English ones all useful, but only 
to saying that in English word order is utilized to express difference 
of meaning to a far greater extent than in German. 

One critic cites against me " one example, which figures in 
almost every Rhetoric as a violation of clearness : And thus the 
son the fervid sire address'd," and he adds : " The use of a separate 
form for nominative and accusative would clear up the ambiguity 
immediately." The retort is obvious : no doubt it would, but 
so would the use of a natural word order. Word order is just as 
much a part of English grammar as case-endings are in other 
languages ; a violation of the rules of word order may cause the 
same want of intelligibility as the use of dominum instead of 
dominus would in Latin. And if the example is found in almost 
every English Rhetoric, I am glad to say that equally ambiguous 
sentences are very rare indeed in other English books. Even in 
poetry, where there is such a thing as poetic licence, and where 
the exigencies of rhythm and rime, as well as the fondness for 

5] WORD ORDER 345 

archaic and out-of-the-way expressions, will often induce deviations 
from the word order of prose, real ambiguity will very seldom 
arise on that account. It is true that it has been disputed which 
is the subject in Gray's line : 

And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 

but then it does not matter much, for the ultimate understanding 
of the line must be exactly the same whether the air holds stillness 
or stillness holds the air. In ordinary language we may find 
similar collocations, but it is worth saying with some emphasis 
that there can never be any doubt as to which is the subject and 
which the object. The ordinary word order is, Subject-Verb- 
Object, and where there is a deviation there must always be some 
special reason for it. This may be the wish, especially for the 
sake of some contrast, to throw into relief some member of the 
sentence. If this is the subject, the purpose is achieved by 
stressing it, but the word order is not affected. But if it is the 
object, this may be placed in the very beginning of the sentence, 
but in that case English does not, like German and Danish, require 
inversion of the verb, and the order consequently is, Object-Sub- 
ject-Verb, which is perfectly clear and unambiguous. See, for 
instance, Dickens's sentence: "Talent, Mr. Micawber has; capital, 
Mr. Micawber has not," and the following passage from a recent 
novel : " Even Royalty had not quite their glow and glitter ; 
Royalty you might see any day, driving, bowing, smiling. The 
Queen had a smile for every one ; but the Duchess no one, not 
even Lizzie, ever saw." Thus, also, in Shakespeare's : 

Things base and vilde, holding no quantity, 

Lone can transpose to forme and dignity (Mid*. I. 1. 233), 

and in Longfellow's translation from Logau : 

A blind man is a poor man, and blind a poor man is ; 
For the former seeth no man, and the latter no man sees. 

The reason for deviating from the order, Subject-Verb-Object, 
may again be purely grammatical : a relative or an interrogative 
pronoun must be placed first ; but here, too, English grammar 
precludes ambiguity, as witness the following sentences : This 
picture, which surpasses Mona Lisa | This picture, which Mona 
Lisa surpasses | What picture surpasses Mona Lisa ? | What 
picture does Mona Lisa surpass ? In German (dieses bild, 
welches die M. L. ubertrifft, etc.) all four sentences would be 
ambiguous, in Danish the two last would be indistinguishable ; 
but English shows that a small number of case forms is not 
incompatible with perfect clearness and perspicuity. If the famous 

346 PROGRESS [CH. xvin 

oracular answer (Henry VI, 2nd Part, I. 4. 33), "The Duke yet 
Hues, that Henry shall depose," is ambiguous, it is only because 
it is in verse, where you expect inversions : in ordinary prose it 
could be understood only in one way, as the word order would 
be reversed if Henry was meant as the object. 

XVm. 6. Gender. 

Besides case distinctions the older Aryan languages have a 
rather complicated system of gender distinctions, which in many 
instances agrees with, but in many others is totally independent 
of, and even may be completely at war with, the natural distinc- 
tion between male beings, female beings and things without sex. 
This grammatical gender is sometimes looked upon as something 
valuable for a language to possess ; thus Schroeder (Die formale 
Unterscheidung 87) says : " The formal distinction of genders 
is decidedly an enormous advantage which the Aryan, Semitic 
and Egyptian languages have before all other languages." Aasen 
(Norsk Grammatik 123) finds that the preservation of the old 
genders gives vividness and variety to a language ; he therefore, 
in constructing his artificial Norwegian ' landsmaal,' based it 
on those dialects which made a formal distinction between the 
masculine and feminine article. But other scholars have recog- 
nized the disadvantages accruing from such distinctions ; thus 
Tegner (SM 50) regrets the fact that in Swedish it is impossible 
to give such a form to the sentence ' sin make ma man ej svika ' 
as to make it clear that the admonition is applicable to both 
husband and wife, because make, ' mate,' is masculine, and maka 
feminine. In Danish, where mage is common to both sexes, no 
such difficulty arises. Gabelentz (Spr 234) says : " Das gramma- 
tische geschlecht bringt es weiter mit sich dass wir deutschen nie 
eine frauensperson als einen menschen und nicht leicht einen 
mann als eine person bezeichnen." 

As a matter of fact, German gender is responsible for many 
difficulties, not only when it is in conflict with natural sex, as when 
one may hesitate whether to use the pronoun es or sie in reference 
to a person just mentioned as das mddchen or das weib, or er or 
sie in reference to die schildwache, but also when sexless things 
are concerned, and er might be taken as either referring to the 
man or to der stuhl or to der wald just mentioned, etc. In France, 
grammarians have disputed without end as to the propriety or 
not of referring to the (feminine) word personnes by means of the 
pronoun ils (see Nyrop, Kongruens 24, and Gr. iii. 712) : "Les 
personnes que vous attendiez sont tons logis ici." As a negative 
pronoun personne is now frankly masculine : ' personne n'est mal- 

6] GENDER 847 

heureux.' Witn gens the old feminine gender is still kept up when 
an adjective precedes, as in les bonnes gens, thus also toutes les 
bonnes gens, but when the adjective has no separate feminine 
form, schoolmasters prefer to say tons les honnetes gens, and the 
masculine generally prevails when the adjective is at some distance 
from gens, as in the old school -example, Instruits par I 'experience, 
toutes les vieilles gens sont soupc/mneux. There is a good deal of 
artificiality in the strict rules of grammarians on this point, and 
it is therefore good that the Arrete ministeriel of 1901 tolerates 
greater liberty ; but conflicts are unavoidable, and will rise quite 
naturally, in any language that has not arrived at the perfect 
stage of complete genderlessness (which, of course, is not identical 
with inability to express sex-differences). 

Most English pronouns make no distinction of sex : /, you, 
we, they, who, each, somebody, etc. Yet, when we hear that 
Finnic and Magyar, and indeed the vast majority of languages 
outside the Aryan and Semitic world, have no separate forms 
for he and she, our first thought is one of astonishment ; we fail 
to see how it is possible to do without this distinction. But if 
we look more closely we shall see that it is at times an inconvenience 
to have to specify the sex of the person spoken about. Coleridge 
(Anima Poetce 190) regretted the lack of a pronoun to refer to 
the word person, as it necessitated some stiff and strange construc- 
tion like 'not letting the person be aware wherein offence had 
been given,' instead of ' wherein he or she has offended.' It 
has been said that if a genderless pronoun could be substituted 
for he in such a proposition as this : ' It would be interesting if 
each of the leading poets would tell us what he considers his best 
work,' ladies would be spared the disparaging implication that 
the leading poets were all men. Similarly there is something 
incongruous in the following sentence found in a German review 
of a book : " Was Maria und Fritz so zueinander zog, war, dass 
jeder von ihnen am anderen sah, wie er unglucklich war." Any- 
one who has written much in Ido will have often felt how convenient 
it is to have the common-sex pronouns lu (he or she), singlu, altru, 
etc. It is interesting to see the different ways out of the difficulty 
resorted to in actual language. First the cumbrous use of he 
or she, as in Fielding TJ 1. 174, the reader's heart (if he or she 
have any) | Miss Muloch H. 2. 128, each one made his or her 
comment. 1 Secondly, the use of he alone : If anybody behaves 
in such and such a manner, he will be punished (cf. the wholly 

1 This ungainly repetition is frequent in the Latin of Roman law, e.g. 
Digest. IV. 5. 2, Qui qucevt . . . capite dimintUi diminut<z esse dicentur, 
in eoe ta*vt . . . iudicium dabo. j XLIII. 30, Qui qtueve in potectate Lucii 
Titii eat, si it eavt apud te est, dolove malo tuo factum est quomimu apud 

348 PROGRESS [CH. xvra 

unobjectionable, but not always applicable, formula : Whoever 
behaves in such and such a manner will be punished). This use 
of he has been legalized by the Act 13 and 14 Viet., cap. 21. 4 : 
" That in all acts words importing the masculine gender shall be 
deemed and taken to include females. " Third, the sexless but plural 
form they may be used. If you try to put the phrase, 'Does 
anybody prevent you ? ' in another way, beginning with ' Nobody 
prevents you,' and then adding the interrogatory formula, you 
will perceive that ' does he ' is too definite, and ' does he or she ' 
too clumsy ; and you will therefore naturally say (as Thackeray 
does, P 2. 260), " Nobody prevents you, do they ? " In the same 
manner Shakespeare writes (Liter. 125) : " Everybody to rest 
themselves betake." The substitution of the plural for the 
singular is not wholly illogical ; for everybody is much the same 
thing as ' all men,' and nobody is the negation of ' all men ' ; but the 
phenomenon is extended to cases where this explanation will not 
hold good, as in G. Eliot, M. 2. 304, I shouldn't like to punish any 
one, even if they'd done me wrong. (For many examples from 
good writers see my MEG. ii. 5, 56.) 

The English interrogative who is not, like the quis or qua of 
the Romans, limited to one sex and one number, so that our 
question ' Who did it ? ' to be rendered exactly in Latin, would 
require a combination of the four : Quis hoc fecit ? Quce hoc 
fecit ? Qui hoc fecerunt ? Quce hoc fecerunt ? or rather, the 
abstract nature of who (and of did) makes it possible to express 
such a question much more indefinitely in English than in any 
highly flexional language ; and indefiniteness in many cases means 
greater precision, or a closer correspondence between thought and 

XVm. 7. Nominal Concord. 

We have seen in the case of the verbs how widely diffused in 
all the old Aryan languages is the phenomenon of Concord. It 
is the same with the nouns. Here, as there, it consists in secondary 
words (here chiefly adjectives) being made to agree with principal 
words, but while with the verbs the agreement was in number and 
person, here it is in number, case and gender. This is well known 
in Greek and Latin ; as examples from Gothic may here be given 
Luk. 1. 72, gamunan triggwos weihaizos seinaizos, ' to remember 

te esset, ita eum eamve exhibeas. | XI. 3, Qui servum servant, alicnum alicnam 
recepisse persuasisseve quid ei dicitur dolo malo, quo eum earn deteriorem 
faceret, in eum, quanti ea res erit, in duplum iudicium dabo. I owe these 
and some other Latin examples to my late teacher, Dr. O. Siesbye. From 
French, Nyrop (Kongruvns, p. 12) gives some corresponding examples : 
tous ceux et loutes celles qui, ayant 6t6 orphelins, avaient on une enfnw 
rnalheureuse (Philippe), and from Old Fronch : Lors donna iiongic 1 a 
et a celes que il avoit rescous (Villehurdouin). 


His holy covenant,' and 1. 75, allans (lagans unsarans, ' all our 
days.' The English translation shows how English has discarded 
this trait, for there is nothing in the forms of (his), holy, all and 
our, as in the Gothic forms, to indicate what substantive they 
belong to. 

Wherever the same adjectival idea is to be joined to two 
substantives, the concordless junction is an obvious advantage, 
as seen from a comparison of the English ' my wife and children ' 
with the French ' ma femme et mes enfants,' or of ' the local press 
and committees ' with ' la presse locale et Us comites locaux.' 
Try to translate exactly into French or Latin such a sentence as 
this : " What are the present state and wants of mankind ? " 
(Ruskin). Cf. also the expression ' a verdict of wilful murder 
against some person or persons unknown,' where some and unknouni 
belong to the singular as well as to the plural forms ; Fielding 
writes (TJ 3. 65) : " Some particular chapter, or perhaps chapters, 
may be obnoxious." Where an English editor of a text will write : 
" Some (indifferently singular and plural) word or words wanting 
here," a Dane will write : " Et (sg.) eller flere (pi.) ord (indifferent) 
mangier her." These last examples may be taken as proof that 
it might even in some cases be advantageous to have forms in 
the substantives that did not show number ; still, it must be 
recognized that the distinction between one and more than one 
righUly belongs to substantival notions, but logically it has as 
little to do with adjectival as with verbal notions (cf. above, Ch. 
XVII 11). In ' black spots ' it is the spots, but not the qualities 
of black, that we count. And in ' two black spots ' it is of course 
quite superfluous to add a dual or plural ending (as in Latin duo, 
duce) in order to indicate once more what the word two denotes 
sufficiently, namely, that we have not to do with a singular. 
Compare, finally, E. to the father and mother, Fr. au pere et a la 
mere, G. zu dem vater und der mutter (zum vater und zur mutter). 

If it is admitted that it is an inconvenience whenever you 
want to use an adjective to have to put it in the form corresponding 
in case, number and gender to its substantive, it may be thought 
a redeeming feature of the language which makes this demand 
that, on the other hand, it allows you to place the adjective at some 
distance from the substantive, and yet the hearer or reader will 
at once connect the two together. But here, as elsewhere in 
' energetics,' the question is whether the advantage counter- 
balances the disadvantage ; in other words, whether the fact that 
you are free to place your adjective where you will is worth the 
price you pay for it in being always saddled with the heavy apparatus 
of adjectival flexions. Why should you want to remove the 
adjective from the substantive, which naturally must be in your 

350 PROGRESS [en. xvm 

thought when you are thinking of the adjective* There is one 

natural employment of the adjective in which it has very often 
to stand at some distance from the substantive, namely, when it 
is predicative ; but then the example of German shows the needless- 
ness of concord in that case, for while the adjunct adjective is 
inflected (ein guter mensch, eine gute frau, ein gutes buch, gute 
biicher) the predicative is invariable like the adverb (der mensch 
ist gut, die frau ist gut, das buch ist gut, die bticher sind gut). It 
is chiefly in poetry that a Latin adjective is placed far from its 
substantive, as in Vergil : " Et bene apud memores veteris stat 
gratia facti " (Mn. IV. 539), where the form shows that veteris 
is to be taken with facti (but then, where does bene belong ? it 
might be taken with memores, stat or facti). In Horace's well- 
known aphorism : " ^Equam memento rebus in arduis servare 
mentem," the flexional form of aquam allows him to place it first, 
far from mentem, and thus facilitates for him the task of building 
up a perfect metrical line ; but for the reader it would certainly 
be preferable to have had cequam mentem together at once, instead 
of having to hold his attention in suspense for five words, till 
finally he comes upon a word with which to connect the adjective. 
There is therefore no economizing of the energy of reader or hearer. 
Extreme examples may be found in Icelandic skaldic poetry, in 
which the poets, to fulfil the requirements of a highly complicated 
metrical system, entailing initial and medial rimes, very often 
place the words in what logically must be considered the worst 
disorder, thereby making their poem as difficult to understand 
as 'an intricate chess-problem is to solve and certainlv coming 
short of the highest poetical form. 

8. The English Genitive. 

If we compare a group of Latin words, such as opera virorum 
omnium bonorum veterum, with a corresponding group in a few other 
languages of a less flexional type : OE. ealra godra ealdra manna 
weorc ; Danish alle gode gamle mcends vcerker ; Modern English 
all good old men's works, we perceive by analyzing the ideas ex- 
pressed by the several words that the Romans said really : ' work,' 
plural, nominative or accusative -f- ' man,' plural, masculine, 
genitive +' all,' plural, genitive -}- ' good,' plural, masculine, 
genitive -f- ' old,' plural, masculine, genitive. Leaving opera out 
of consideration, we find that plural number is expressed four 
times, genitive case also four times, and masculine gender twice ; 1 

1 If instead of omnium veterum I had chosen, for instance, multorum 
antiquorum, the meaning of masculine gender would have been rendered 
four times : for languages, especially the older ones, are not distinguished 
by consistency. 


in Old English the signs of number and case are found four times 
each, while there is no indication of gender ; in Danish the plural 
number is marked four times and the case once. And finally, 
in Modern English, we find each idea expressed once only ; and 
as nothing is lost in clearness, this method as being the easiest and 
shortest, must be considered the best. Mathematically the different 
ways of rendering the same thing might be represented by the 
formulas : anx + bnx + cnx = (an + bn -f cn)x = (a+b-fc)nx. 

This unusual faculty of ' parenthesizing ' causes Danish, 
and to a still greater degree English, to stand outside the definition 
of the Aryan family of languages given by the earlier school of 
linguists, according to which the Aryan substantive and adjective 
can never be without a sign indicating case. Schleicher (NV 526) 
says : " The radical difference between Magyar and Indo-Germanic 
(Aryan) words is brought out distinctly by the fact that the post- 
positions belonging to co-ordinated nouns can be dispensed with 
in all the nouns except the last of the series, e.g. a jo embernek, 
' dem guten menschen ' (a for az, demonstrative pronoun, article ; 
jo, good ; ember, man, -nek, -nak, postposition with pretty much 
the same meaning as the dative case), for az-nak (annak) jo-nak 
ember-nek, as if in Greek you should say TO dya$o av&pajTrtp. An 
attributive adjective preceding its noun always has the form of 
the pure stem, the sign of plurality and the postposition indicating 
case not being added to it. Magyars say, for instance, Hunyady 
Maty as magyar kirdly-nak (to the Hungarian king Mathew Hun- 
yady), -nak belonging here to all the preceding words. Nearly 
the same thing takes place where several words are joined together 
by means of ' and.' " 

Now, this is an exact parallel to the English group genitive 
in cases like ' all good old men's works,' ' the King of England's 
power,' ' Beaumont and Fletcher's plays,' ' somebody else's 
turn,' etc. The way in which this group genitive has developed 
in comparatively recent times may be summed up as follows 
(see the detailed exposition in my ChE ch. iii.) : In the oldest 
English -s is a case-ending, like all others found in flexional lan- 
guages ; it forms together with the body of the noun one indivi- 
sible whole, in which it is sometimes impossible to tell where the 
kernel of the word ends and the ending begins (compare endes 
from ende and heriges from here) ; only some words have this 
ending, and in others the genitive is indicated in other ways. As 
to syntax, the meaning or function of the genitive is complicated 
and rather vague, and there are no fixed rules for the position of 
the genitive in the sentence. 

In course of time we witness a gradual development towards 
greater regularity and precision. The partitive, objective, deecrip- 

352 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

tive and some other functions of the genitive become obsolete; 
the genitive is invariably put immediately before the word it 
belongs to ; irregular forms disappear, the s ending alone surviving 
as the fittest, so that at last we have one definite ending with one 
definite function and one definite position. 

In Old English, when several words belonging together were 
to be put in the genitive, each of them had to take the genitive 
mark, though this was often different in different words, and thus 
we had combinations like anes reades marines, ' a red man's ' | }>cere 
godlican lufe, ' the godlike love's ' | ealra godra ealdra manna 
weorc, etc. Now the s used everywhere is much more independent, 
and may be separated from the principal word by an adverb like 
else or by a prepositional group like of England, and one s is 
sufficient at the end even of a long group of words. Here, then, we 
see in the full light of comparatively recent history a giving up 
of the old flexion with its inseparability of the constituent elements 
of the word and with its strictness of concord ; an easier and 
more regular system is developed, in which the ending leads a 
more independent existence and may be compared with the 
' agglutinated ' elements of such a language as Magyar or even 
with the * empty words ' of Chinese grammar. The direction of 
this development is the direct opposite of that assumed by 
most linguists for the development of languages in prehistoric 

XVm. 9. Bantu Concord. 

One of the most characteristic traits of the history of English 
is thus seen to be the gradual getting rid of concord as of some- 
thing superfluous. Where concord is found in our family of 
languages, it certainly is an heirloom from a primitive age, and 
strikes us now as an outcome of a tendency to be more explicit 
than to more advanced people seems strictly necessary. It is 
on a par with the ' concord of negatives,' as we might term the 
emphasizing of the negative idea by seemingly redundant repeti- 
tions. In Old English it was the regular idiom to say : nan man 
nyste nan J?ing, * no man not-knew nothing ' ; so it was in 
Chaucer's time : he neuere yet no vileynye ne sayde In all his 
lyf unto wo manner wight ; and it survives in the vulgar speech 
of our own days : there was niver nobody else gen (gave) me 
nothin ' (George Eliot) ; whereas standard Modern English is 
content with one negation : no man knew anything, etc. That 
concord is really a primitive trait (though not, of course, found 
equally distributed among all ' primitive peoples ') will be seen 
also by a rapid glance at the structure of the South African group 




of languages called Bantu, for here we find not only repetition of 
negatives, but also other phenomena of concord in specially 
luxuriant growth. 

I take the following examples chiefly from VV. H. I. Bleek's 
excellent, though unfortunately unfinished, Comparative Grammar, 
though I am well aware that expressions like si-m-tanda (we love 
him) " are never used by natives with this meaning without being 
determined by some other expression " (Torrend, p. 7). The 
Zulu word for ' man ' is umuntu ; every word in the same or a 
following sentence having any reference to that word must begin 
with something to remind you of the beginning of umuntu. This 
will be, according to fixed rules, either mu or u, or w or m. In 
the following sentence, the meaning of which is ' our handsome 
man (or woman) appears, we love him (or her),' these reminders 
(as I shall term them) are printed in italics : 

umuntu ti-etu omuchle wyabonakala, sitntanda (1) 
man ours handsome appears, we love. 

If, instead of the singular, we take the corresponding plural 
abantu, ' men, people ' (whence the generic name of Bantu), the 
sentence looks quite different : 

a&antu 6etu aiachle ftayabonakala, si&atanda (2). 

In the same way, if we successively take as our starting-point 
ilizive, ' country,' the corresponding plural amaztve, ' countries,' 
isizwe, ' nation,' izizwe, ' nations,' intombi. ' girl,' izintombi, 
' girls,' we get : 



si/z'tanda (5) 
siu-atanda (6) 
sisitanda (7) 
sizttanda (8) 
siyttanda (9) 
sizttanda (10) 
we love. 1 


In other words, every substantive belongs to one of several 
classes, of which some have a singular and others a plural meaning ; 
each of these classes has its own prefix, by means of which the 
concord of the parts of a sentence is indicated. (An inhabitant 

1 The change of the initial sound of the reminder belonging to the 
adjective is explained through composition with a ' relative particle ' a ; 
au becoming o, and at, e. The numbers within parentheses refer to the 
numbers of Bleek's classes. Similar sentences from Tonga are found in 
Torrend's Compar. Gr. p. 6 f . 


354 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

of the country of Uganda is called mwganda, pi. 6organda or tmganda ; 
the language spoken there is Uganda.) 

It will be noticed that adjectives such as ' handsome ' or 
' ours ' take different shapes according to the word to which they 
refer ; in the Zulu Lord's Prayer ' thy ' is found in the following 
forms : Zako (referring to t'gama, ' name,' for I'Zigama, 5), 6ako, 
(w&ttkumkani, ' kingdom,' 14), t/ako (wtando, ' will,' 9). So also 
the genitive case of the same noun has a great many different 
forms, for the genitive relation is expressed by the reminder of 
the governing word + the ' relative particle ' a (which is com- 
bined with the following sound) ; take, for instance, inkosi, ' chief, 

wwwntu wenkosi, ' the king's man ' (1 ; we f or w -f- a -f i). 
a&antu 6enkosi, ' the king's men ' (2). 
ilizwe Zenkosi, ' the king's country ' (5). 
omazwe enkosi, ' the king's countries ' (6). 
tsizwe senkosi, ' the king's nation ' (7). 

kwenkosi, ' the king's love ' (15). 

Livingstone says that these apparently redundant repetitions 
" impart energy and perspicuity to each member of a proposition, 
and prevent the possibility of a mistake as to the antecedent." 
These prefixes are necessary to the Bantu languages ; still, Bleek 
is right as against Livingstone in speaking of the repetitions as 
cumbersome, just as the endings of Latin multorum virorum 
antiquorum are cumbersome, however indispensable they may 
have been to the contemporaries of Cicero. 

These African phenomena have been mentioned here chiefly 
to show to what lengths concord may go in the speech of some 
primitive peoples. The prevalent opinion is that each of these 
prefixes (umu, aba, Hi, etc.) was originally an independent word, 
and that thus words like umuntu, ilizwe, were at first compounds 
like E. steamship, where it would evidently be possible to imagine 
a reference to this word by means of a repeated ship (our ship, 
which ship is a great ship, the ship appears, we love the ship); 
but at any rate the Zulus extend this principle to cases that would 
be parallel to an imagined repetition of friendship by means of the 
same ship, or to referring to steamer by means of the ending er 
(Bleek 107). Bleek and others have tried to find out by an 
analysis of the words making up the different classes what may 
have been the original meaning of the class-prefix, but very often 
the connecting tie is extremely loose, and in many cases it seems 
that a word might with equal right have belonged to another 
class than the one to which it actually belongs. The connexion 
also frequently seems to be a derived rather than an original one, 


and much in this class-division is just as arbitrary as the reference 
of Aryan nouns to each of the three genders. In several of the 
classes the words have a definite numerical value, so that they go 
together in pairs as corresponding singular and plural nouns ; but 
the existence of a certain number of exceptions shows that these 
numerical values cannot originally have been associated with the 
class prefixes, but must be due to an extension by analogy 
(Bleek 140 ff.)- The starting-point may have been substantives 
standing to each other in the relation of ' person ' to ' people,' 
'soldier' to 'army,' 'tree' to 'forest,' etc. The prefixes of 
such words as the latter of each of these pairs will easily acquire 
a certain sense of plurality, no matter what they may have meant 
originally, and then they will lend themselves to forming a kind 
of plural in other nouns, being either put instead of the prefix 
belonging properly to the noun (amazwe, ' countries,' 6 ; t/i'zwe, 
'country,' 5), or placed before it (ma-lvto, 'spoons,' 6, luio, 
'spoon,' 11). 

In some of the languages " the forms of some of the prefixes 
have been so strongly contracted as almost to defy identification." 
(Bleek 234). All the prefixes probably at first had fuller forms 
than appear now. Bleek noticed that the ma- prefix never, except 
in some degraded languages, had a corresponding ma- as particle, 
but, on the contrary, is followed in the sentence by ga-, ya-, or 
a-, and mu- (3) generally has a corresponding particle gu-. Now, 
Sir Harry Johnston (The Uganda Protectorate, 1902, 2. 891) has 
found that on Mount Eldon and in Kavirondo there are some very 
archaic forms of Bantu languages, in which gumu- and gama- 
are the commonly used forms of the mu- and ma- prefixes, as well 
as baba- and bubu- for ordinary ba-, bu- ; he infers that the original 
forms of mu-, ma- were ngumu-, ngama-. I am not so sure that 
he is right when he says that these prefixes were originally " words 
which had a separate meaning of their own, either as directives 
or demonstrative pronouns, as indications of sex, weakness, little- 
ness or greatness, and so on " for, as we shall see in a subsequent 
chapter, such grammatical instruments may have been at first 
inseparable parts of long words parts which had no meaning 
of their own and have acquired some more or less vague gram- 
matical meaning through being extended gradually to other words 
with which they had originally nothing to do. The actual 
irregularity in their distribution certainly seems to point in that 

XVm. 10. Word Order Again, 

Mention has already been made here and there of word order 
and its relation to the great question of simplification of gram- 

356 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

matical structure ; but it will be well in this place to return to the 
subject in a more comprehensive way. The theory of word order 
has long been the Cinderella of linguistic science : how many even 
of the best and fullest grammars are wholly, or almost wholly, silent 
about it ! And yet it presents a great many problems of high 
importance and of the greatest interest, not only in those languages 
in which word order has been extensively utilized for grammatical 
purposes, such as English and Chinese, but in other languages 
as well. 

In historical times we see a gradual evolution of strict rules 
for word order, while our general impression of the older stages 
of our languages is that words were often placed more or less at 
random. This is what we should naturally expect from primitive 
man, whose thoughts and words are most likely to have come to 
him rushing helter-skelter, in wild confusion. One cannot, of 
course, apply so strong an expression to languages such as 
Sanskrit, Greek or Gothic ; still, compared with our modern 
languages, it cannot be denied that there is in them much more 
of what from one point of view is disorder, and from another 

This is especially the case with regard to the mutual position 
of the subject of a sentence and its verb. In the earliest times, 
sometimes one of them comes first, and sometimes the other. 
Then there is a growing tendency to place the subject first, and 
as this position is found not only in most European languages 
but also in Chinese and other languages of far-away, the phe- 
nomenon must be founded in the very nature of human thought, 
though its non-prevalence in most of the older Aryan languages 
goes far to show that this particular order is only natural to 
developed human thought. 

Survivals of the earlier state of things are found here and 
there ; thus, in German ballad style : " Kam ein schlanker bursch 
gegangen." But it is well worth noticing that such an arrange- 
ment is generally avoided, in German as well as in the other modern 
languages of Western Europe, and in those cases where there is 
some reason for placing the verb before the subject, the speaker 
still, as it were, satisfies his grammatical instinct by putting a 
kind of sham subject before the verb, as in E. there comes a time 
when . . ., Dan. der kommer en tid da . . ., G. e.s kommt eine 
zeit wo . . ., Fr. '{ arrive un temps ou . . . 

In Keltic the habitual word order placed the verb first, but 
little by little the tendency prevailed to introduce most sentences 
by a periphrasis, as in * (it) is the man that comes,' and as that 
came to mean merety ' the man comes,' the word order Subject- 
Verb was thus brought about circuitously. 


Before this particular word order, Subject-Verb, was firmly 
established in modern Gothonic languages, an exception obtained 
wherever the sentence began with some other word than the 
subject ; this might be some important member of the proposition 
that was placed first for the sake of emphasis, or it might be some 
unimportant little adverb, but the rule was that the verb should 
at any rate have the second place, as being felt to be in some way 
the middle or central part of the whole, and the subject had then 
to be content to be placed after the verb. This was the rule in 
Middle English and in Old French, and it is still strictly followed 
in German and Danish : Gestern kam das schiff \ Pigen gav jeg 
Jcagen, ikke drengen. Traces of the practice are still found in 
English in parenthetic sentences to indicate who is the speaker 
(' Oh, yes,' said he), and after a somewhat long subjunct, if there 
is no object (' About this time died the gentle Queen Elizabeth '), 
where this word order is little more than a stylistic trick to avoid 
the abrupt effect of ending the sentence with an isolated verb 
like died. Otherwise the order Subject-Verb is almost universal 
in English. 

XVIII. 11. Compromises. 

The inverted order, Verb -Subject, is used extensively in many 
languages to express questions, wishes and invitations. But, as 
already stated, this order was not originally peculiar to such 
sentences. A question was expressed, no matter how the words 
were arranged, by pronouncing the whole sentence, or the most 
important part of it, in a peculiar rising tone. This manner of 
indicating questions is, of course, still kept up in modern speech, 
and is often the only thing to show that a question is meant 
('John ? ' | 'John is here ? '). But although there was thus a 
natural manner of expressing questions, and although the inverted 
word order was used in other sorts of sentences as well, yet in 
course of time there came to be a connexion between the two 
things, so that putting the verb before the subject was felt as 
implying a question. The rising tone then came to be less neces- 
sary, and is much less marked in inverted sentences like ' Is John 
here ? ' than in sentences with the usual word order : ' John 
is here ! ' 

Now, after this method of indicating questions had become 
comparatively fixed, and after the habit of thinking of the subject 
first had become all but universal, these two principles entered 
into conflict, the result of which has been, in English, Danish 
and French, the estabb'shment in some cases of various kinds of 
compromise, in which the interrogatory word order has formally 

358 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

carried the day, while really the verb, that is to say the verb which 
means something, is placed after its subject. In English, this is 
attained by means of the auxiliary do : instead of Shakespeare's 
*' Came he not home to-night ? " (Eo. u. 4. 2) we now say, " Did 
he not (or, Didn't he) come home to-night ? " and so in all cases 
where a similar arrangement is not already brought about by the 
presence of some other auxiliary, ' Will he come ? ', ' Can he 
come ? ', etc. Where we have an interrogatory pronoun as a 
subject, no auxiliary is required, because the natural front position 
of the pronoun maintains the order Subject- Verb (Who came ? | 
What happened ?). But if the pronoun is not the subject, do 
is required to establish the balance between the two principles 
(Who(m) did you see ? | What does he say ?). 

In Danish, the verb mon, used in the old language to indicate 
a weak necessity or a vague futurity, fulfils to a certain extent 
the same office as the English do ; up to the eighteenth century 
mon was really an auxiliary verb, followed by the infinitive : ' Mon 
han komme ? ' ; but now the construction has changed, the 
indicative is used with mon : ' Mon han kommer ? ', and mon is 
no longer a verb, but an interrogatory adverb, which serves the 
purpose of placing the subject before the verb, besides making 
the question more indefinite and vague : ' Kommer han ? ' means 
' Does he come ? ' or ' Will he come ? ' but ' Mon han kommer ? ' 
means ' Does he come (Will he come), do you think ? ' 

French, finally, has developed two distinct forms of compromise 
between the conflicting principles, for in ' Est-ce que Pierre bat 
Jean ? ' est-ce represents the interrogatory and Pierre bat the usual 
word order, and in ' Pierre bat-il Jean ? ' the real subject is placed 
before and the sham subject after the verb. Here also, as in 
Danish, the ultimate result is the creation of ' empty words,' or 
interrogatory adverbs : est-ce-que in every respect except in spelling 
is one word (note that it does not change with the tense of the 
main verb), and thus is a sentence prefix to introduce questions ; 
and in popular speech we find another empty word, namely ti 
(see, among other scholars, G. Paris, Milanges ling. 276). The 
origin of this ti is very curious. While the t of Latin amat, etc., 
coming after a vowel, disappeared at a very early period of the 
French language, and so produced il aime, etc., the same t was 
kept in Old French wherever a consonant protected it, 1 and so 
gave the forms eat, sont, fait (from fact, for facit), font, chantent, 
etc. From est-il, fait-il, etc., the t was then by analogy reintro- 
duced in aime-t-il, instead of the earlier aime il. Now, towards 
the end of the Middle Agee, French final consonants were as a rule 

1 Thii protecting consonant was dropped in pronunciation at a later 


dropped in speech, except when followed immediately by a word 
beginning with a vowel. Consequently, while t is mute in sentences 
like ' Ton frere dit \ Tes freres disent,' it is sounded in the corre- 
sponding questions, ' Ton frere dit-il ? Tes freres disent-ila f 
As the final consonants of il and ils are also generally dropped, 
even by educated speakers, the difference between interrogatory 
and declarative sentences in the spoken language depends solely 
on the addition of ti to the verb : written phonetically, the pairs 
will be : 

[to frc'r di to freT di ti] 

[te freT drz te freT drz ti]. 

Now, popular instinct seizes upon this ti as a convenient sign 
of interrogative sentences, and, forgetting its origin, uses it even 
with a feminine subject, turning ' Ta sceur di(t) ' into the question 
' Ta scaur di ti ? ', and in the first person : ' Je di ti ? ' * Nous 
dison ti ? ' * Je vous fais-ti tort ? ' (Maupassant). In novels this 
is often written as if it were the adverb y : C'est-y pas vrai ? | Je 
suis t'y bete ! j C'est-y vous le monsieur de 1'Academie qui va 
avoir cent ans ? (Daudet). I have dwelt on this point because, 
besides showing the interest of many problems of word order, it also 
throws some light on the sometimes unexpected ways by which 
languages must often travel to arrive at new expressions for gram- 
matical categories. 

It was mentioned above that the inverted order, Verb-Subject, 
is used extensively, not only in questions, but also to express 
wishes and invitations. Here, too, we find in English compromises 
with the usual order, Subject- Verb. For, apart from such formulas 
as ' Long live the King ! ' a wish is generally expressed by means 
of may, which is placed first, while the real verb comes after the 
subject : ' May she be happy ! ', and instead of the old ' Go we ! ' 
we have now * Let us go ! ' with us, the virtual subject, placed 
before the real verb. When a pronoun is wanted with an impera- 
tive, it used to be placed after the verb, as in Shakespeare : ' Stand 
thou forth ' and ' Fear not thou,' or in the Bible : ' Turn ye unto 
him,' but now the usual order has prevailed : ' You try ! ' ' You 
take that seat, and somebody fetch a few more chairs ! ' But if 
the auxiliary do is used, we have the compromise order : ' Don't 
you stir ! ' 

XVm. 12. Order Beneficial P 

I have here selected one point, the place of the subject, to 
illustrate the growing regularity in word order ; but the same 
tendency is manifested in other fields as well : the place of the 
object (or of two objects, if we have an indirect besides a direct 


object), the place of the adjunct adjective, the place of a sub- 
ordinate adverb, which by coming regularly before a certain 
case may become a preposition ' governing ' that case, etc. It 
cannot be denied that the tendency towards a more regular word 
order is universal, and in accordance with the general trend of 
this inquiry we must next ask the question : Is this tendency a 
beneficial one ? Does the more regular word order found in 
recent stages of our languages constitute a progress hi linguistic 
structure ? Or should it be deplored because it hinders freedom 
of movement ? 

In answering this question we must first of all beware of 
letting our judgment be run away with by the word * freedom.' 
Because freedom is desirable elsewhere, it does not follow that 
it should be the best thing in this domain ; just as above we did 
not allow ourselves to be imposed on by the phrase * wealth of 
forms,' so here we must be on our guard against the word * free ' : 
what if we turned the question in another way : Which is preferable, 
order or disorder ? It may be true that, viewed exclusively from 
the standpoint of the speaker, freedom would seem to be a great 
advantage, as it is a restraint to him to be obliged to follow strict 
rules ; but an orderly arrangement is decidedly in the interest 
of the hearer, as it very considerably facilitates his understanding 
of what is said ; it is therefore, though indirectly, in the interest of 
the speaker too, because he naturally speaks for the purpose 
of being understood. Besides, he is soon in his turn to become 
the hearer : as no one is exclusively hearer or speaker, there can 
be no real conflict of interest between the two. 

If it be urged in favour of a free word order that we owe a 
certain regard to the interests of poets, it must be taken into con- 
sideration, first, that we cannot all of us be poets, and that a 
regard to all those of us who resemble Moliere's M. Jourdain in 
speaking prose without being aware of it is perhaps, after all, more 
important than a regard for those very few who are in the enviable 
position of writing readable verse ; secondly, that a statistical 
investigation would, no doubt, give as its result that those poets 
who make the most extensive use of inversions are not among the 
greatest of their craft ; and, finally, that so many methods are 
found of neutralizing the restraint of word order, in the shape of 
particles, passive voice, different constructions of sentences, etc., 
that no artist in language need despair. 

So far, we have scarcely done more than clear the ground before 
answering our question. And now we must recognize that there 
are some rules of word order which cannot be called beneficial 
in any way ; they are like certain rules of etiquette, in so far as 
one can see no reason for their existence, and yet one is obliged to 


bow to them. Historians may, in some cases, be able to account 
for their origin and show that they had a raison d'etre at some 
remote period ; but the circumstances that called them into exist- 
ence then have passed away, and they are now felt to be restraints 
with no concurrent advantage to reconcile us to their observance 
Among rules of this class we may reckon those for placing the 
French pronouns now before, and now after, the verb, now with 
the dative and now with the accusative first, ' elle me le donne | elle 
le lui donne | donnez-Ze moi \ ne me le donnez pas.' And, again, 
the rules for placing the verb, object, etc., in German subordinate 
clauses otherwise than in main sentences. That the latter rules 
are defective and are inferior to the English rules, which are the 
same for the two kinds of sentences, was pointed out before, when 
we examined Johannson's German sentences (p. 341), but here 
we may state that the real, innermost reason for condemning them 
is their inconsistency : the same rule does not apply in all cases. 
It seems possible to establish the important principle that the 
more consistent a rule for word order is, the more useful it is in 
the economy of speech, not only as facilitating the understanding 
of what is said, but also as rendering possible certain thorough- 
going changes in linguistic structure. 

XVm. 13. Word Order and Simplification. 

This, then, is the conclusion I arrive at, that as simplification 
of grammatical structure, abolition of case distinctions, and so 
forth, always go hand in hand with the development of a fixed 
word order, this cannot be accidental, but there must exist a 
relation of cause and effect between the two phenomena. Which, 
then, is the prius or cause ? To my mind undoubtedly the fixed 
word order, so that the grammatical simplification is the posterius 
or effect. It is, however, by no means uncommon to find a half- 
latent conception in people's minds that the flexional endings were 
first lost ' by phonetic decay,' or ' through the blind operation 
of sound laws,' and that then a fixed word order had to step in 
to make up for the loss of the previous forms of expression. But 
if this were true we should have to imagine an intervening period 
in which the mutual relations of words were indicated in neither 
way ; a period, in fact, in which speech was unintelligible and 
consequently practically useless. The theory is therefore untenable. 
It follows that a fixed word order must have come in first : it 
would come quite gradually as a natural consequence of greater 
mental development and general maturity, when the speaker's 
ideas no longer came into his mind helter-skelter, but in orderly 
sequence. If before the establishment of some sort of fixed 

862 PROGRESS [CH. xvni 

word order any tendency to slur certain final consonants or vowels 
of grammatical importance had manifested itself, it could not 
have become universal, as it would have been constantly checked 
by the necessity that speech should be intelligible, and that there- 
fore those marks which showed the relation of different words 
should not be obliterated. But when once each word was placed 
at the exact spot where it properly belonged, then there was no 
longer anything to forbid the endings being weakened by assimila- 
tion, etc., or being finally dropped altogether. 

To bring out my view I have been obliged in the preceding 
paragraph to use expressions that should not be taken too literally ; 
I have spoken as if the changes referred to were made 'in the 
lump,' that is, as if the word order was first settled in every 
respect, and after that the endings began to be dropped. The 
real facts are, of course, much more complicated, changes of one 
kind being interwoven with changes of the other in such a way as 
to render it difficult, if not impossible, in any particular case to 
discover which was the prius and which the posterius. We are 
not able to lay our finger on one spot and say : Here final m or 
n was dropped, because it was now rendered superfluous as a case- 
sign on account of the accusative being invariably placed after 
the verb, or for some other such reason, Nevertheless, the essential 
truth of my hypothesis seems to me unimpeachable. Look at 
Latin final s. Cicero (Orat. 48. 161) expressly tells us, what is 
corroborated by a good many inscriptions, that there existed a 
strong tendency to drop final 8 ; but the tendency did not prevail. 
The reason seems obvious ; take a page of Latin prose and try 
the effect of striking out all final S'B, and you will find that it will 
be extremely difficult to determine the meaning of many passages ; 
a consonant playing so important a part in the endings of nouns 
and verbs could not be left out without loss in a language possessing 
so much freedom in regard to word position as Latin. Conse- 
quently it was kept, but in course of time word position became 
more and more subject to laws ; and when, centuries later, after 
the splitting up of Latin into the Romanic languages, the tendency 
to slur over final 8 knocked once more at the door, it met no longer 
with the same resistance : final s disappeared, first in Italian and 
Rumanian, then in French, where it was kept till about the end 
of the Middle Ages, and it is now beginning to sound a retreat in 
Spanish ; see on Andalusian FT. Wulff , Un Chapitre de Phonetique 
Andalouse, 1889. 

The main line of development in historical times has, I take 
it, been the following : first, a period in which words were placed 
somewhere or other according to the fancy of the moment, but 
many of them provided with signs that would show their mutual 


relations ; next, a period with retention of these signs, combined 
with a growing regularity in word order, and at the same time in 
many connexions a more copious employment of prepositions ; 
then an increasing indistinctness and finally complete dropping 
of the endings, word order (and prepositions) being now sufficient 
to indicate the relations at first shown by endings and similar 

Viewed in this light, the transition from freedom in word 
position to greater strictness must be considered a beneficial 
change, since it has enabled the speakers to do away with more 
circumstantial and clumsy linguistic means. Schiller says : 

Jeden anderen meister erkennt man an dem, was er ausspricht ; 
Was er weise verschweigt, zeigt mir den meister des stila. 

(Every other master is known by what he says, but the master 
of style by what he is wisely silent on.) What style is to the 
individual, the general laws of language are to the nation, and we 
must award the palm to that language which makes it possible 
" to be wisely silent " about things which in other languages have 
to be expressed in a troublesome way, and which have often to 
be expressed over and over again (virorum omniwm bonorum 
veterwm, ealra godra ealdra manna). Could any linguistic expedient 
be more worthy of the genus homo sapiens than using for different 
purposes, with different significations, two sentences like ' John 
beats Henry ' and ' Henry beats John,' or the four Danish ones, 
' Jens slaar Henrik Henrik slaar Jens slaar Jens Henrik ? 
slaar Henrik Jens ? ' (John beats Henry H. beats J. does J. 
beat H. ? does H. beat J. ?), or the Chinese use of c in different 
places (Ch. XIX 3) ? Cannot this be compared with the ingenious 
Arabic system of numeration, in which 234 means something 
entirely different from 324, or 423, or 432, and the ideas of " tens " 
and " hundreds " are elegantly suggested by the order of the 
characters, not, as in the Roman system, ponderously expressed ? 
Now, it should not be forgotten that this system, " where more 
is meant than meets the ear," is not only more convenient, but 
also clearer than flexions, as actually found in existing languages, 
for word order in those languages which utilize it grammatically 
is used much more consistently than any endings have ever been 
in the old Aryan languages. It is not true, as Johannson would 
have us believe, that the dispensing with old flexional endings was 
too dearly bought, as it brought about increasing possibilities of 
misunderstandings ; for in the evolution of languages the dis- 
carding of old flexions goes hand in hand with the development 
of simpler and more regular expedients that are rather less liable 
than the old ones to produce misunderstandings. Johansson 

364 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

writes : " In contrast to Jespersen I do not consider that the 
masterly expression is the one which is ' wisely silent,' and conse- 
quently leaves the meaning to be partly guessed at, but the one 
which is able to impart the meaning of the speaker or writer clearly 
and perfectly " but here he seems rather wide of the mark. For, 
just as in reading the arithmetical symbol 234 we are perfectly 
sure that two hundred and thirty-four is meant, and not three 
hundred and forty -two, so in reading and hearing ' The boy hates 
the girl ' we cannot have the least doubt who hates whom. After 
all, there is less guesswork in the grammatical understanding of 
English than of Latin ; cf . the examples given above, Ch. XVIII 4, 
p. 343. 

The tendency towards a fixed word order is therefore a pro- 
gressive one, directly as well as indirectly. The substitution of 
word order for flexions means a victory of spiritual over material 

XVIII. 14. Summary. 

We may here sum up the results of our comparison of the 
main features of the grammatical structures of ancient and 
modern languages belonging to our family of speech. We have 
found certain traits common to the old stages and certain others 
characteristic of recent ones, and have thus been enabled to 
establish some definite tendencies of development and to find 
out the general direction of change ; and we have shown reasons 
for the conviction that this development has on the whole and 
in the main been a beneficial one, thus justifying us in speaking 
about ' progress in language.' The points in which the superiority 
of the modern languages manifested itself were the following : 

(1) The forms are generally shorter, thus involving less 
muscular exertion and requiring less time for their enunciation. 

(2) There are not so many of them to burden the memory. 

(3) Their formation is much more regular. 

(4) Their syntactic use also presents fewer irregularities. 

(5) Their more analytic and abstract character facilitates 
expression by rendering possible a great many combinations and 
constructions which were formerly impossible or unidiomatic. 

(6) The clumsy repetitions known under the name of concord 
have become superfluous. 

(7) A clear and unambiguous understanding is secured through 
a regular word order. 

These several advantages have not been won all at once, and 
languages differ very much in the velocity with which they have 
been moving in the direction indicated ; thus High German is 
in many respects behindhand as compared with Low German ; 

14] SUMMARY 865 

European Dutch as compared with African Dutch ; Swedish as 
compared with Danish ; and all of them as compared with English ; 
further, among the Romanic languages we see considerable varia- 
tions in this respect. What is maintained is chiefly that there 
is a general tendency for languages to develop along the lines here 
indicated, and that this development may truly, from the anthropo- 
centric point of view, which is the only justifiable one, be termed 
a progressive evolution. 

But is this tendency really general, or even universal, in the 
world of languages ? It will easily be seen that my examples 
have in the main been taken from comparatively few languages, 
those with which I myself and presumably most of my readers 
are most familiar, all of them belonging to the Gothonic and 
Romanic branches of the Aryan family. Would the same theory 
hold good with regard to other languages ? Without pretending 
to an intimate knowledge of the history of many languages, I 
yet dare assert that my conclusions are confirmed by all those 
languages whose history is accessible to us. Colloquial Irish and 
Gaelic have in many ways a simpler grammatical structure than 
the Oldest Irish. Russian has got rid of some of the complications 
of Old Slavonic, and the same is true, even in a much higher degree, 
of some of the other Slavonic languages ; thus, Bulgarian has 
greatly simplified its nominal and Serbian its verbal flexions. The 
grammar of spoken Modern Greek is much less complicated than 
that of the language of Homer or of Demosthenes. The structure 
of Modern Persian is nearly as simple as English, though that of 
Old Persian was highly complicated. In India we witness a 
constant simplification of grammar from Sanskrit through Prakrit 
and Pali to the modern languages, Hindi, Hindostani (Urdu), 
Bengali, etc. Outside the Aryan world we see the same movement : 
Hebrew is simpler and more regular than Assyrian, and spoken 
Arabic than the old classical language, Koptic than Old Egyptian. 
Of most of the other languages we are not in possession of written 
records from very early times ; still, we may affirm that in Turkish 
there has been an evolution, though rather a slow one, of a similar 
kind ; and, as we shall see in a later chapter, Chinese seems to 
have moved in the same direction, though the nature of its writing 
makes the task of penetrating into its history a matter of extreme 
difficulty. A comparative study of the numerous Bantu languages 
spoken all over South Africa justifies us in thinking that their 
evolution has been along the same lines : in some of them the 
prefixes characterizing various classes of nouns have been reduced 
in number and in extent (cf . above, 9). Of one of them we have 
a grammar two hundred years old, by Brusciotto a Vetralla 
(re-edited by H. Grattan Guinness, Txmdon, 1882). A comparison 

866 PROGRESS [CH. xvm 

of his description with the language now spoken in the same 
region (Mpongwe) shows that the class signs have dwindled down 
considerably and the number of the classes has been reduced 
from 16 to 10. In short, though we can only prove it with regard 
to a minority of the multitudinous languages spoken on the globe, 
this minority embraces all the languages known to us for so long 
a period that we can talk of their history, and we may, therefore, 
confidently maintain that what may be briefly termed the 
tendency towards grammatical simplification is a universal fact 
of linguistic history. 

That this simplification is progressive, i.e. beneficial, was 
overlooked by the older generation of linguistic thinkers, because 
they saw a kosmos, a beautiful and well-arranged world, in the 
old languages, and missed in the modern ones several things that 
they had been accustomed to regard with veneration. To some 
extent they were right : every language, when studied in the 
right spirit, presents so many beautiful points in its systematic 
structure that it may be called a ' kosmos.' But it is not in 
every way a kosmos ; like everything human, it presents fine 
and less fine features, and a comparative valuation, such as the 
one here attempted, should take both into consideration. There 
is undoubtedly an exquisite beauty in the old Greek language, 
and the ancient Hellenes, with their artistic temperament, knew 
how to turn that beauty to the best account in their literary 
productions ; but there is no less beauty in many modern languages 
though its appraisement is a matter of taste, and as such evades 
scientific inquiry. But the aesthetic point of view is not the 
decisive one : language is of the utmost importance to the whole 
practical and spiritual life of mankind, and therefore has to be 
estimated by such tests as those applied above ; if that is done, 
we cannot be blind to the fact that modern languages as wholes 
are more practical than ancient ones, and that the latter present 
so many more anomalies and irregularities than our present-day 
languages that we may feel inclined, if not to apply to them 
Shakespeare's line, "Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms," 
yet to think that the development has been from something nearer 
chaos to something nearer kosmos. 


1. The Old Theory. 2. Roots. 3. Structure of Chinese. 4. History 
of Chinese. 5. Recent Investigations. 6. Roots Again. 7. The 
Agglutination Theory. 8. Coalescence. 9. Flexional Endings. 
10. Validity of the Theory. 11. Irregularity Original. 12. 
Coalescence Theory dropped. 13. Secretion. 14. Extension of 
Suffixes. 15. Tainting of Suffixes. 16. The Classifying Instinct. 
17. Character of Suffixes. 18. Brugmann's Theory of Gender. 
19. Final Considerations. 

XIX. 1. The Old Theory. 

WHAT has been given in the last two chapters to clear up the 
problem " Decay or progress ? " has been based, as will readily 
be noticed, exclusively on easily controllable facts of linguistic 
history. So far, then, it has been very smooth sailing. But 
now we must venture out into the open sea of prehistoric 
speculations. Our voyage will be the safer if we never lose 
sight of land and have a reliable compass tested in known 

In our historical survey of linguistic science we have already 
seen that the prevalent theory concerning the prehistoric develop- 
ment of our speech is this : an originally isolating language, 
consisting of nothing but formless roots, passed through an 
agglutinating stage, in which formal elements had been de- 
veloped, although these and the roots were mutually independent, 
to the third and highest stage found in fiexional languages, 
in which formal elements penetrated the roots and made insepar- 
able unities with them. We shall now examine the basis of this 

In the beginning was the root. This is " the result of strict 
and careful induction from the facts recorded in the dialects of 
the different members of the family " (Whitney L 260). " The 
firm foundation of the theory of roots lies in its logical necessity 
as an inference from the doctrine of the historical growth of gram- 
matical apparatus " (Whitney G 200). " An instrumentality can- 
not but have had rude and simple beginnings, such as, in language, 
the so-called roots . . . such imperfect hints of expression as 
we call roots " (Whitney, Views of L. 338). These are really 


three different statements : induction from the facts, a logical 
inference from the doctrine about grammatical apparatus (i.e. 
the usually accepted doctrine, but on what is that built up except 
on the root theory ?), and the a priori argument that an ' instru- 
mentality ' must have simple beginnings. Even granted that 
these three arguments given at different times, each of them in 
turn as the sole argument, must be taken as supplementing each 
other, the three-legged stool on which the root theory is thus made 
to sit is a very shaky one, for none of the three legs is very solid, 
as we shall soon have occasion to see. 

XIX. 2. Roots. 

In the beginning was the root but what was it like ? Bopp 
took over the conception of root from the Indian grammarians, 
and like them was convinced that roots were all monosyllabic, 
and that view was accepted by his followers. These latter at 
times attributed other phonetic qualities to these roots, e.g. that 
they always had a short vowel (Curtius C 22). I quote from a 
very recent treatise (Wood, " Indo-European Root-formation," 
Journal of Germ. Philol. 1. 291) : " I range myself with those who 
believe that IE. roots were monosyllabic . . . these roots began, 
for the most part, with a vowel. The vowels certainly were the 
first utterances, 1 and though we cannot make the beginning of 
IE. speech coeval with that of human speech, we may at least 
assume that language, at that time, was in a very primitive 

The number of these roots was not very great (Curtius, I.e. ; 
Wood 294). This seems a natural enough conclusion when we 
picture the earliest speech as the most meagre thing possible. 

These few short monosyllabic roots were real words this is 
a necessary assumption if we are to imagine a root stage as a real 
language, and it is often expressly stated ; Curtius, for instance, 
insists that roots are real and independent words (C 22, K 132) ; 
cf. also Whitney, who says that the root VAK "had also once 
an independent status, that it was a word " (L 255). We shall 
see afterwards that there is another possible conception of what 
a ' root ' is ; but let us here grant that it is a real word. The 
question whether a language is possible which contains nothing 
but such root words was always answered affirmatively by a 
reference to Chinese and it will therefore be well here to 
give a short sketch of the chief structural features of that 

1 Why so ? Did sheep and cows also begin with vowels only, adding 
6 and m afterwards to make up their bah and moo 1 


XIX. 3. Structure of Chinese. 

Each word consists of one syllable, neither more nor less. 
Each of these monosyllables has one of four or five distinct musical 
tones (not indicated here). The parts of speech are not distin- 
guished : to means, according to circumstances, great, much, 
magnitude, enlarge. Grammatical relations, such as number, 
person, tense, case, etc., are not expressed by endings and similar 
expedients ; the word in itself is invariable. If a substantive is 
to be taken as plural, this as a rule must be gathered from the 
context ; and it is only when there is any danger of misunder- 
standing, or when the notion of plurality is to be emphasized, 
that separate words are added, e.g. ki ' some,' u ' number.' The 
most important part of Chinese grammar is that dealing with 
word order : to kuok means ' great state(s),' but kuok to ' the 
state is great,' or, if placed before some other word which can 
serve as a verb, ' the greatness (size) of the state ' ; tsi niu ' boys 
and girls,' but niu ts\ ' girl (female child),' etc. Besides words 
properly so called, or as Chinese grammarians call them ' full 
words,' there are several ' empty words ' serving for grammatical 
purposes, often in a wonderfully clever and ingenious way. Thus 
ci has besides other functions that of indicating a genitive relation 
more distinctly than would be indicated by the mere position of 
the words ; min (people) lik (power) is of itself sufficient to signify 
' the power of the people,' but the same notion is expressed more 
explicitly by min ci lik. The same expedient is used to indicate 
I different sorts of connexion : if ci is placed after the subject of 
| a sentence it makes it a genitive, thereby changing the sentence 
I into a kind of subordinate clause : wang pao min = ' the king